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SWT agrees a budget with a heart

25 February 2022 : Council news

Somerset West and Taunton Council has approved its final budget with a focus on protecting services, supporting communities, and delivering on key priorities.

Members approved the balanced budget for 2022/23 at a Full Council meeting last night (Thursday 24 February).

The budget for the next financial year will be the last ahead of the creation of a new unitary authority in April 2023 and will allow the Council to continue to invest in the district, while allocating resources to priorities identified in the Corporate Strategy.

Among the approved spending plans is:

  • £500,000 for climate initiatives ranging from the accelerated roll out of electric vehicle charging points to developing innovative partnership schemes for tree planting, and decarbonisation of council buildings in line with our Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience (CNCR) Action Plan which we will have allocated £1.5million to over three years.
  • A £5milllion investment in flood defence works at Firepool Lock Gates and the North Bank of the River Tone in line with the Taunton Strategic Flood Alleviation and Improvement Scheme (TSFAIS) with a further £1million in the capital programme for other flood alleviation works.
  • A £600,000 Environmental Improvement Fund for everything from repair and replacement of street furniture, street cleansing and graffiti removal, to refurbishment of our public tennis courts.
  • £2million capital investment for work addressing the issue of phosphates on the Somerset Levels and Moors.
  • £1million for housing development and regeneration to increase social housing availability and quality, on top of £30million capital investment in council-owned social housing stock agreed by Council on 8 February.
  • £800,000 towards our Single Homelessness and Rough Sleeper Accommodation Strategy to end rough sleeping in the district by 2027.

The budget also provides for further investment in our open spaces with new paths, benches and play equipment, and the continued roll out of replacement litter bins to allow residents to recycle-on-the-go.

Plus, investment in our assets including £1.5million for works to the Crescent Car Park, and wider maintenance of assets such as a new roof, air handling and replacement boiler at Wellington Leisure Centre.

All five councils have also been asked to contribute to the implementation costs of Local Government Reorganisation in Somerset. The budget includes £1.375million for this purpose and related costs in 2022/23.

Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts, Leader of SWT, said: “I am proud that our final budget is providing new projects and greater services despite a further reduction of £1.6million in Government grant funding and a £1.6million fall in our funding through business rates.

“We have worked hard to deliver savings and efficiencies to ensure we have fully funded spending plans for the year with a focus on prioritising and protecting services and supporting spending on key projects while minimising disruption for our customers, communities, and businesses during the transition to the new Somerset Council.

“Despite the coming year being our last as a District Council we’re not taking our foot off the pedal. We’re getting on with the job of ensuring local people continue to receive the services they value while still investing in our communities, developing a thriving and resilient economy, improving our housing, and protecting the environment. “

The approved budget sees a council tax increase of 2.95% which equates to £5 a year on a band D property, making the band D charge £174.63 per year for SWT’s share of the overall council tax bill.

It also includes a precept of £29,458 in special expenses for the Unparished Area of Taunton, which results in an annual council tax rate of £1.93 for a Band D for households in the Unparished Area.

Cllr Smith-Roberts added: “I understand that £5 a year on a Band D property is another increase for families at a time when there are lots of increases in household budgets, however, I know we can demonstrate the services we provide are benefiting and caring for our community for less than 10p a week.”

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 council services.

Cllr Ross Henley, Executive Member for Corporate Services said: “SWT has delivered year on year efficiency without diminishing service provision and I am delighted that we are able to maintain that record as we enter our last year as a sovereign council.”