Derbyshire Dales councillors have voted unanimously to increase by 10p a week the amount the average local household will pay from 1 April for District Council services.
The increase in 2019/20 - £5 per year more for a Band D property - was approved across all parties and independent members on Thursday 7 March at the authority's annual budget meeting, the broadcast of which can be viewed at the foot of this article.
Leader Councillor Lewis Rose OBE told the meeting that the council's aim must be to keep the Derbyshire Dales as one of the best performing small rural districts in England for as long as possible, adding:
"We need to continue to punch above our weight, to give value for money and do more for less and maintain as many front line services as we can."
Services provided by the District Council include waste and recycling collections, keeping streets clean, maintaining more than 30 parks and gardens, crime prevention and health initiatives, planning, licensing, helping local business and supporting local people at risk of homelessness.
The District Council collects Council Tax on behalf of other authorities but keeps only 11% of the total. The bulk of residents' Council Tax cash goes to Derbyshire County Council (70%), while Derbyshire Constabulary's share in 2019/20 will increase to 12%. The remainder funds the fire service and local town and parish councils.
The majority of homes in the Derbyshire Dales are rated in the lower bands A-D, and the 2.45% increase will see a Band D property paying just over £209 a year for District Council services. Read the report [PDF 64KB].
Councillor Rose, whose budget speech is available to read at the foot of this page, thanked fellow councillors for their cooperation in reaching difficult decisions.
"We might not always agree, but at least here in Derbyshire Dales we have sensible debates about these tough decisions," he said.
"Whilst this will be our fourth Council Tax increase in nine years we need to remember that for five years prior to 2016/17 we froze Council Tax in the Dales, which was no mean achievement.
"The inflation rate and cost of providing services over that nine year period bears no comparison to this modest request and it only goes to prove that we have worked hard to reduce costs and make savings in many ways as well as increasing income to help balance the books.
"I have not been afraid from time to time to criticise Governments of all political colours when they have not treated district councils fairly or have ignored the extra costs of providing services in sparse rural areas such as ours. We must therefore give credit to the SPARSE Rural Group for making it so clear that rural areas in particular have been worse hit than urban areas.
"We need to continue to lobby the Government and make it clear to our MP that rural areas like ours need to be properly recognised, as extra costs are incurred."
Among significant future challenges for the District Council, Councillor Rose listed the procurement of new waste and recycling and revenues and benefits contracts and the legal obligation to find a permanent site in the Dales for Gypsies and Travellers.
"There is no room for complacency and we are all very conscious that the amount we will receive in future years continues on its downward trend. This means all the effort we have put into finding savings must of necessity continue in earnest."
Council Tax will fund only a third of the authority’s total spending (excluding housing benefits) of £17.6 million in 2019/20. The biggest contributor to local services will be fees and charges (41% of the budget), with 17% coming from Business Rates and only 8% from central Government grants.
Waste & recycling collections account for the largest share of Council spending (23%), followed by keeping streets and parks clean and green (18%) and regeneration and tourism (13%).
The table below shows the Council Tax increases in all property bands (A-H) in 2019/20:
Text of Councillor Lewis Rose's budget speech
Chairman and colleagues,
It is not my intention to speak at length tonight about the District Council’s proposed Council Tax rise of 2.45% for a Band D property especially in light of the reports we have previously discussed.
Just to emphasise however that the proposed increase is less than the full 2.99% the Government have assumed we are increasing our Council Tax rate. I hope members will share my view that the recommendations put forward by Karen Henriksen and her team should be supported.
As before they have put a lot of hard work into the preparation of all this important information and detail and on behalf of all of us I would like to thank her and her colleagues for this.
I would also like to thank all our members for the cooperation they have provided in reaching difficult decisions. We might not always agree but at least here in Derbyshire Dales we have sensible debates about these tough decisions.
Whilst this will be our fourth increase in 9 years we need to remember that for 5 years prior to 2016/17 we froze Council Tax in the Dales which was no mean achievement.
The inflation rate and cost of providing services over that 9 year period bears no comparison to this modest request and it only goes to prove that we have worked hard to reduce costs and make savings in many ways as well as increasing income to help balance the books.
Clearly we cannot ignore the significant changes which have led us to seeking an increase this year although it is not all bad news.
The retention of the Rural Services Delivery Grant at its current level thanks to the hard work of SPARSE and the DCN and the LGA.
Whilst negative RSG has been ruled out this year there is a real risk that it will come back to bite us in subsequent years.
The Fair funding review is also a concern as we do not know what the outcome will be.
I have not been afraid from time to time to criticise Governments of all political colours when they have not treated District Councils fairly or have ignored the extra costs of providing services in sparse rural areas such as ours. We must therefore give credit to SPARSE for making it so clear as the how rural areas in particular have been worse hit than urban areas as Karen’s presentation to the recent round of Forum meetings made clear.
We need to continue to lobby the government and make it clear to our MP that rural area like ours need to be properly recognised as extra costs are incurred.
The “Elephants in the room“ are still:
- Social care – this should not be funded by taking money of one tier and giving it to another
- The Fair funding review
- The Comprehensive spending assessment
- The new waste contract for August 2020 onwards will be challenging
- There will be a new Revenue & Benefits contract to deal with
- Business rate retention needs to ensure that rural districts are treated fairly and that it does not lead to more going to the upper tier or other areas at our expense. On that note however the exclusion of Derbyshire in the recently announced Business Rates Pilots is unfortunate as the opportunity it gave last year was helpful to us
- And finally amongst our list of significant challenges the next Council must find a permanent site for the travellers we are legally obliged to accommodate. We cannot go on the way we have been causing stress to communities, stress to the travellers, stress to Officers and members alike.
There is no room for complacency as Karen’s report makes clear and we are all very conscious that the amount we will receive in future years continues on its downward trend. This means all the effort we have put into finding savings must of necessity continue in ernest. We still need to ask ourselves the fundamental questions:
- Do we need to provide this service at all?
- Can it be provided better by others?
- Can we improve it ourselves?
- Can we work in partnership with others to provide this service?
The ongoing reviews have continue to ask these questions and will need to continue to do so. The Leisure Review put this into very sharp focus as that it is our costliest and largest non statutory service and the Council have already embarked on a fundamental change to how they are delivered and the outcome was beneficial to all.
The reports before you set out the future financial position of the Council very clearly and I consider that we are all very familiar with what we have to do. I would however wish to thank all our staff and all our Members for what we had to do and what our Staff are continue to do on our behalf to achieve these objectives. It could not be done without them.
Despite all this our Public expect more and want us to maintain the excellent level of services we provide and we will do our best to do so for the time being but the expectation of further grant reductions and other changes highlighted in the report make it clear that more fundamental changes may have to carefully evaluated.
But enough of this, let us look ahead at what we have achieved over the last 4 years and this is by no means a complete list just significant highlights – it is just a few of them.
- Business advice services supported 48 businesses secured nearly £1.5 million in external grant funding and in the last 3 years created over 100 new jobs
- We now have a new leisure provider (Freedom Leisure) in place and they are working well and proving popular. We have pledged to invest over £1 million to improve our Leisure facilities
- We have secured £165,000 grant from Sport England to cover physical activity in target areas
- Our parks and recreation grounds are a credit to us with Hall Leys Park awarded Green Flag status for the 11th consecutive year
- Our commercialisation agenda continues to offer many exciting opportunities
- We have given the opportunity to local groups to run two of our markets – Wirksworth and now Ashbourne
- District Fairtrade status achieved thanks to active support from Members especially Irene R
- We have facilitated the completion of 235 new affordable homes and prevented 2800 families from becoming homeless. 1200 households allocated a new home through Home Options
1000 Disabled Facilities grants to help vulnerable people
- Our Local Projects fund has been very popular with local Groups and Ward members with over 350 schemes supported. I am pleased that we are going to continue it for next year and hopefully if the new council agree thereafter
- We have helped two Neighbourhood plans to fruition in Wirksworth and Doveridge and hope to get more over the line soon
We still have an ambitious capital programme which is fully funded at the moment but any additional demands can only be met by taking out items which have been committed. The Council's ambition to help provide more affordable homes for local residents forms a substantial part of this programme and demonstrates to all concerned that the Council puts its money where its mouth is!
Our aims therefore remain the same:
- To keep the Dales as one of the best performing small rural districts in England for as long as we can
- To continue to punch above our weight
- To continue to give value for money and do more for less
- To maintain as many front line services as we can
But in doing so it is our duty as members to take responsibility for our decisions (they are not Officer decisions and we cannot hide behind them) and explain them to our constituents when the need arises.
Despite all the many challenges that face us let us continue to work together to achieve these important aims.
I beg to move the resolutions set out in the report.
Leader Derbyshire Dales District Council