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16th Oct, 2021

Council tax looks set to rise in Stratford as budget plans revealed

COUNCIL tax is set to rise in Stratford district after the authority revealed its budget plans to curb the impact of covid 19.

Stratford District Council leader Tony Jefferson says difficult decisions need to be made after the ongoing pandemic posed significant financial and economic challenges.

Revenue losses are estimated to be around £2.6million, and expected to triple over the next five years.

As such, the recommendations from the ruling cabinet include a council tax increase of £5 a year on a Band D property – from £144.12 to £149.12 – in the authority’s share of the bill which amounts to 7.5 per cent. Warwickshire County Council’s precept amounts to the lion’s share of the overall bill at around 80 per cent.

Coun Jefferson said: “Difficult decisions have to be made to set a balanced budget with limited central government funding, while maintaining general reserves of £2.5million. The current loss of revenue combined with increased costs is substantial and is estimated to be in the region of £2.6million this year alone.

“Although we have a long history of strong financial management, having been able to benefit from reserves, this year we are having to make difficult decisions with reductions in funding and rising costs. We are also fully committed to working closely with Warwick District Council to ensure we can continue to provide services in the future.

“This year’s budget is not a growth budget as in previous years, but our budget proposals for the coming year ensure we are well placed to prepare for the district’s future as we work alongside our partners to respond to the continuing covid 19 pandemic.

“The future beyond next year is increasingly uncertain. The implications of the continuing pandemic on the demand for our services, on the prospects of businesses and attractions within the district, and on the well-being and livelihoods of residents are uncertain.

“The proposed budget for this year is only the beginning of a journey that remains to be explored.”

To curb the revenue shortfall – projected to be around £4.2million – the council plans to release some 2.4million from its earmarked reserves to the general fund reserve along with some £975,000 from the revenue pot.

Major projects including the Studley Leisure Centre Gym, The Business Centre Workshop and The Empty Homes Loan Scheme, will no longer be allocated a share of £1.4million, although £1million will still be held to pursue the Compulsory Purchase Order of Wellesbourne Airfield.

New charges for the garden waste service – to be implemented in April – and increases to the level of off-street parking have been included in the budget.

Other expenditure has already been reduced by £236,000 through decisions not to fill a number of vacant posts and savings from joint appointments with Warwick District Council. Also, as the ‘normal’ Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations will not take place in April this year, £25,000 allocated for event security costs have been omitted.

The authority is further anticipating a one year financial settlement from the government and additional one-off funding to help mitigate the impact of the covid crisis.

Following the cabinet meeting on Monday (January 18) the draft budgets will be used to consult with the public, local businesses and the overview and scrutiny committee.

The cabinet’s final budget proposals and council tax levels will be considered at the full council meeting on Monday February 22.

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