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Council sets out budget proposals

11 February 2021 : Council news

Somerset West and Taunton’s Full Council will be recommended to support a balanced budget for the coming financial year despite the challenges of COVID-19. 
The emphasis during 2020/21 has been on supporting residents and businesses throughout the Coronavirus crisis while delivering frontline services and taking opportunities to kick-start economic recovery.
The proposed budget for 2021/22 will allow SWT to continue providing this level of support whilst allowing the Council to press ahead with ambitious plans to invest in the future.
The Executive has agreed to recommend that Full Council approves the budget for 2021/22, which includes:
• £500,000 funding towards projects identified in the Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience Action Plan, adding to the £500,000 allocated in 2020/21.

• £100,000 additional budget for tree planting across the district.

• £100,000 for a new Community Enhancement Fund to help support the community across Somerset West and Taunton following the impact of COVID.

• £25,000 increase to ensure we continue to meet our dredging obligations at Watchet Outer Harbour.

• Over £600,000 additional investment across our general fund and housing assets to ensure compliance with modern safety standards.

• A continued policy of suspending parking charges in Council-owned car parks on the three Saturdays leading up to Christmas and on one Sunday in Dulverton in line with previous years, to support local economies.
Final approval will see a council tax increase of 3.04%  which equates to £5 on a band D property making the band D charge £169.63 per year; this comprises of £167.88 for district council services and £1.75 on behalf of the Somerset Rivers Authority to fund its programme of flood prevention and mitigation works.
The proposed budget also includes a precept of £29,093 in special expenses for the Unparished Area of Taunton, which results in an annual council tax rate of £1.91 for a Band D for households in the Unparished Area.
Somerset West and Taunton’s share of the overall Council tax bill is 9% of the total, with the remainder going to fund Somerset County Council, Police and Fire services, and Town and Parish councils services.
For the Council’s housing service, average social housing rents are proposed to increase by 1.5%, with the service continuing to invest in ensuring homes are of a decent standard and our support to tenants and communities is maintained.
We also propose to spend an additional £100,000 for a number of apprenticeship positions to support our excellent repairs service for tenants.
Alongside the budget the Council is seeking support for its updated 30-year housing business plan.
This includes significant investment to maintain existing housing stock and allow for the new build/ purchase of an additional 374 units by 2027/28. This includes the recently approved zero carbon projects at Seaward Way and Oxford Inn, and the major regeneration scheme in North Taunton.
Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Leader of SWT, said: “I’m proud that we are able to set a balanced budget despite the challenges we have faced in the past extraordinary year.
"Through the commitment and hard work of our staff we have delivered the front line services so valued by our community, and we are still planning and investing for the future though our growth programme, creating jobs, improving our housing and protecting the environment.
"Our priority is and always has been to make sure that local people continue to receive the services they value while investing in our area to develop a thriving and resilient economy.”
The budget proposals will be considered by Full Council on Thursday 18 February.