- Thursday, 28 February 2013 12:15
Another Council Tax freeze by Derbyshire Dales District Council means households will continue to pay around 50p a day for local services from 1 April.
The average annual bill is maintained at £189.66 for District Council services, including business support, affordable housing, leisure centres and health initiatives, waste and recycling collections, parks maintenance, street cleaning and leading on crime prevention initiatives. That's the equivalent to a weekly bill of just £3.65.
Derbyshire Dales District Council collects Council Tax not only to help to pay for its own services, but also on behalf of other public bodies. The majority - around 70% - goes direct to Derbyshire County Council. Only about 12% contributes to the services provided by the District Council.
A rise in the budgets of Derbyshire Police and some local parish and town councils will mean a small increase in overall Council Tax bills for Dales residents in the coming year.
After making efficiency savings of well over £4 million in the past 10 years, Derbyshire Dales District Council faces another cut in Government grant in 2013/14 and has to target additional savings of £1.2 million to 2015. The District Council has this year tackled the impact of a 15.6% grant reduction following on from a 16.2% cut in 2011/12. Central funding has now been slashed by more than 50% in four years.
Savings in the next two years will be made through a combination of measures, including reducing employee costs, sharing services and continuing a comprehensive review of spending across all services.
The goods news for 2013/14 is that despite receiving the lowest central Government grant of any council in the county, Derbyshire Dales District Council has pledged to make no reduction in services.
Opportunities are being examined for shared services that deliver savings and bring about service improvements and although the District Council currently employs only 270 full-time equivalent staff (down from 330 two years ago), its workforce continues to be streamlined, wherever possible through voluntary redundancies.
A major saving introduced in October last year is a new waste and recycling collection contract which, after early changeover issues in some areas of the Dales, is now enabling local people to recycle more at home than ever before while reducing costs by £385,000 a year.
Revenue spending in 2013/14 is pitched at £8.9 million – down from £9.1 million in the current year and £9.5 million in 2011/12. The focus will continue to be on priorities identified by local people – particularly affordable homes and economic support.
Councillor Lewis Rose OBE, leader of Derbyshire Dales District Council, said:
"The dubious 'reward' for being Derbyshire's top performing local authority with a reputation for being prudent and listening to local people is less Government cash than any other district in the county.
"This has happened each year since the current grant system was introduced in 2003, so we concur with the Rural Services Network's view that rural councils have to work harder than most urban areas.
"To maintain with less cash the standard of frontline services we provide, it means we have to continue to work even more efficiently.
"It gets tougher every year to balance the books, but I am delighted that we have managed to make significant progress in several areas, such as topping 1,000 new affordable homes for local people in just 10 years, securing over £51m new housing investment, and supporting 208 businesses and helping to create 95 local jobs since launching our free business advice service at the end of 2011.
"Our excellent work in attracting external funding for Dales initiatives continues - we are currently applying for £700,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund as the rejuvenation of our Ashbourne Park moves forward. Indeed our superb work in maintaining top quality parks throughout the Dales and running events such as Matlock Bath Illuminations helps attract visitors who spend £300 million a year here. We are proud also of our weekly stall markets and Bakewell Farmers' Market, which is one of the very best in the whole of the UK.
"Housing initiatives such as the Escape Project, where we work closely with partners including the local CVS, help the more vulnerable members of our society. Our new public conveniences in Ashbourne, Bakewell and Matlock are already award-winners and a refurbishment programme of loos throughout the Dales has doubled the satisfaction rates of people we surveyed.
"It is also worth mentioning that after a somewhat shaky start in some areas of the Dales, our new waste and recycling arrangement with Serco is recording terrific new recycling rates in a contract that saves Council Tax payers £385,000 a year."
Councillor Rose stressed the District Council always listens to what local people are saying.
"Throughout February we have held forums to discuss our budget proposals and have invited feedback at those events and online," he said. "We pledge to continue to consult vigorously, while also examining innovative ways of working, such as partnership working, shared services and outsourcing."
Revenue spending in 2013/14 will be focused on three priority areas following public consultation:
- Housing which meets local needs
- A clean, green and prosperous Dales
- Safe and healthy communities
Capital funding set aside in 2013/14 includes new affordable housing projects, a new changing village at Ashbourne Leisure Centre, and an extension to the parking areas at the District Council's Agricultural Business Centre in Bakewell.
The Budget recommendations will be considered by a full meeting of the District Council on Thursday 7 March.
Derbyshire Dales District Council now receives 25% less central funding than when the grant system was introduced in 2003 – over 50% less in real terms, including inflation.
Derbyshire Dales District Council's achievements in 2012/13 include:
- 116 new affordable homes enabled. In total, the District Council has now enabled over 1,000 affordable homes in the District since 2002
- Supported 208 businesses and helped create 95 jobs (since end 2011)
- Helped reduce the number of anti-social incidents by 24% from 588 to 417
- Provided refurbished public conveniences across the Derbyshire Dales
- Loo of the Year awards for Ashbourne, Bakewell & Matlock
- Satisfaction with our loos has more than doubled to 68%
- Arc Leisure Matlock development approaching half a million visits
- On course to increase attendances at all our four leisure centres by 5%
- Further increased attendance on our health walks
- We're the fifth most active district in England
- Completed adaptations to the homes of 36 disabled people
- Our Hall Leys Park in Matlock won its 5th consecutive Green Flag Award
- Co-ordinated over 60 local events as part of the Olympic Torch Relay, attracting crowds of 50,000
- 88.9% Council Tax has been collected so far this year (up on last year)
- 89.1% Business Rates have been collected (up on last year)
- Processing new benefits claims 5 days faster this year (up on last year)
- Residents are now recycling more at home than ever before
- Visitors are spending £300m a year in the Dales
- Our new Visitor Information Point in Matlock is already an award-winner
- Our crime prevention initiatives maintain the Dales' reputation for safety – 500 SmartWater kits distributed