North Kesteven District Council’s Executive Board has recommended a budget that would increase its share of the annual council tax demand for the coming year by 3.3 per cent as it seeks to ‘futureproof’ its services while embarking on a three-year plan for growth and investment in the district.
NKDC’s share of the Council Tax bill looks set to remain one of the lowest in the county after the Executive Board backed a £4.95 (3.3%) rise at Band D for the year ahead – equivalent to an increase of less than 10p per week.
As three-quarters of households are in Bands A to C this would equate to a rise of between six and eight pence per week.
This would keep the council’s share of the overall bill at just over £150 across the year at Band D - £100 to £138 for the lower banded homes where most people live – while still allowing for the council to continue to invest in services for the community.
These include refuse and recycling, planning control, economic development and tourism initiatives, public protection, food hygiene inspections, leisure, sports and arts.
The executive board also recommended its NK Plan to Full Council for adoption - a three-year vision for growth and investment. It also put forward the authority’s financial plans for the forthcoming year, which includes a record capital programme of £27m and a net General Fund budget of £11m which are fully funded through ‘careful financial management’.
The NK Plan is focused on four distinct priorities - Our Economy, Our Homes, Our Communities and Our Council - to face existing and emerging challenges. In the coming year these include the construction of at least 60 new council homes, working with partners to drive forward regeneration projects in Sleaford and North Hykeham and progressing the authority’s new refuse depot and increased business workshop provision in Metheringham.
Additionally there is an ongoing commitment to encourage business and job expansion, influence the re-use of empty homes, support communities through Neighbourhood Planning and implement strategies in support of older people and healthy residents.
Although probably having to make the best of things in a tough economic climate for local authority funding, this positive approach is seen in stark contrast to some other local authorities in the county who, faced with austerity measures and reduced funding from the Government have seen the need to prune or withdraw services, such as street lighting and public toilets.
The district council confirmed its commitment to invest in the district and strengthen its position for excellent, efficient services, supported by robust financial plans rather than “massive savings and reactionary switches in direction”.
Council Leader Coun Marion Brighton, said: “We continue to move forward with a viable, robust and positive financial plan for the next three years, with which we remain focused – as a district council – on making a difference for communities across North Kesteven.
“We have responded to the aspirations and desires of our residents and businesses in setting out a strong vision and clear priorities based on investment, growth and service enhancements and look forward to pursuing such a positive plan in the years ahead.”
The council has seen a 33 per cent cut in government grants year on year in recent times while faced with a growing older population, greater housing need (1,600 people on its waiting list for council homes) and economic vulnerability. In response the council has targeted its resources on areas it sees as most important and invested in opportunities which have the potential to draw in income to offset the financial challenges it also faces (such as setting up its own housing company, Lafford Homes, to deliver alternative income streams from selling some housing on the open market as well as building new social housing - unlocking stalled housing developments). It is promoting business growth in the interests of increased business rates and seeking a better deal through its leisure contracts.
Coun Brighton said: “We are feeling very confident in the way forward for North Kesteven, with our finances in a good state and some very good ideas in the NK Plan which we will be forging ahead with; ensuring ongoing delivery of excellent facilities for our flourishing communities.”
Although the district council collects Council Tax it ultimately takes only nine per cent of the overall sum, with Lincolnshire County Council responsible for around three quarters and the Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner and parish and town councils sharing the remainder.
The Full Council will consider the budget and The NK Plan on Thursday, February 23.