Shadow Executive approves BCP Budget recommendation

A balanced budget for 2019/20 has been approved by the Shadow Authority Executive ahead of the launch of the new BCP Council.

It will now go before a meeting of the full Shadow Authority on February 21.

The budget has been prepared from financial plans developed by the four shadow authority Delivery Boards – Adults, Children’s, Place and Corporate – working towards a single Medium Term Financial Plan.

The budget process has accounted for the required efficiencies and savings needed but still enables BCP Council to meet all its statutory responsibilities and provide enhanced support to areas such as Social Care for vulnerable adults and children.

The budget recommendation has managed a further £6.9million per annum cut in core annual Government funding and an estimated £105million per annum in reduced Government funding overall since 2010/11. It further prioritises an extra £3.3million in funding for the most vulnerable through increased budgets in Adults’ and Children’s services and continues to protect frontline services as far as possible.

As a result, the total net Budget for 2019/20 is £274million.

Chair of the Shadow Executive, Councillor Janet Walton, said: “This is an historic budget recommendation, the first for the new BCP Council and I am pleased to see it was (fully) approved by the Shadow Executive. An immense amount of work has been done by our Delivery Boards to meet the needs of the proposed Medium Term Financial Plan and the excellent progress which has been made means we have a sound budget proposal for 2019/20 that has been fully supported.

“The new BCP Council is required to set an annual balanced budget explaining how its financial resources, both income and expenditure, are to be allocated and used. In setting the budget for 2019/20 Members recognised their duty to balance this budget in a manner which reflected not only their obligation to current taxpayers but also their responsibilities to future taxpayers.”

It is envisaged that by 2021 the new BCP Council will cease to receive any core Government funding and all services will need to be funded locally from Council Tax, our share of business rates, fees and income.

Chairman of the Finance Task & Finish Group, Councillor John Beesley, said: “I was delighted to be able to present this balanced budget proposal. The new Council’s finances will remain under immense pressure, not only due to the reduction in Government funding but through numerous cost increases and meeting the ever-rising demand for Council services, especially those related to vulnerable adults and children.

“Nevertheless, as part of the Delivery Board process, significant work has been undertaken to determine the efficiencies that can contribute to the established savings targets, largely focussed on the reduction in staff where they become duplicated, for the new Council. These have concentrated on identifying fewer management roles, achieving economies of scale in service delivery and savings made through back office and support functions.”

In terms of Council Tax, the proposed 2019/20 budget is based on the assumption that BCP Council will adopt the Council Tax harmonisation strategy that states no current Council Tax levels levied by the BCP Unitary Authority will rise at a rate exceeding the Government’s cap and that the amount charged in Christchurch will be frozen or reduced until the harmonised rate has been achieved. It was previously decided by the Shadow Executive and endorsed by the Government that an alternative approach which harmonised the rate of council tax on day one was unacceptable as it would lead to many residents having increases above the referendum limit.

Therefore, in the proposed budget, Poole’s Council Tax will rise in line with the Government’s cap of 2.99%, Christchurch’s will be frozen until Poole’s rate has caught up, and Bournemouth’s will increase by slightly less than the Government cap until it too catches up with Christchurch (for 2019/20 this equates to a 2.4% increase). The 2019/20 BCP unitary charge in Christchurch will appear slightly lower than the combined 2018/19 Council Tax charge levied by Dorset County Council and Christchurch Borough Council due to the cost of services transferring to the two new Town Councils (Christchurch Town and Highcliffe & Walkford).

Not including any precepts which may be applicable for some, including the Fire and Police precepts, a BCP unitary band D Council Tax bill for 2019/20 will be:

  • Bournemouth: £1,473.40 compared to £1,438.92 in 2018/19
  • Christchurch: £1,598.30 compared to £1,607.16
  • Poole: £1,441.53 compared to £1,399.68

BCP Council’s Capital programme for the next three years includes £112 million of investment into Council assets and infrastructure and £119 million of Housing Revenue Account spend on local council housing provision.

Unallocated reserves will stand at £15.4million, which is approximately 5.6% of the proposed net revenue expenditure. Under the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy regulations, unitary authorities must hold reserves at between 5% and 10% of net revenue expenditure.

The budget proposal will also recommend a scheme for Members Allowances and the Chief Officers’ Pay Policy.