High Peak council set to increase housing rent by 7.7per cent and council tax by 2.99per cent
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The Labour-controlled authority, based in Buxton, reviewed its General Fund Budget for the 2024-25 financial year, its Medium-Term Financial Plan for 2024-25 to 2027-28, its Capital Strategy, fees and charges, and procurement plan for 2024-25 at a virtual Executive meeting on Thursday, February 9, following a heavy snowfall across Derbyshire.
Cllr Alan Barrow, Executive Councillor for Corporate Services and Finance, told the meeting: “If full council agrees to this increase, our rents will be increased by 7.7per cent and the council tax will be increased by 2.99per cent subject to Full Council’s approval of course.
“Inflation, it is down now in December 2023 – stood at four per cent but early in this current financial year it was up to ten per cent and that is why a lot of projects and things have cost and caused a lot of money.”
High Peak Borough Council’s reports also state that the Local Government finance settlement of funding available to the authority in 2024-25 was another one-year settlement arrangement, which creates uncertainty for the council’s plans and makes its Medium-Term financial planning more difficult.
The Government has announced that extra Local Government support will be forthcoming in addition to the funding announced in the provisional settlement but the council stated that no specific details are available as to the extra amount for the High Peak so this has not been factored into its plans.
High Peak Borough Council is also anticipating higher costs than anticipated originally in the setting of its MTFP last year and a 4per cent increase is expected for the outlay of pay awards for 2023-24 and even though general inflation is forecast to fall over the next year the council has stated that the base will remain at an inflated level.
By anticipating this uncertainty, the council stated that its financial plans will leave a balanced 2024-25 budget for both revenue and capital but it added that there is still great uncertainty and risk for future years concerning its MTFP.
The Government’s financial settlement allows for up to a three per cent increase in council tax and The Treasury’s published figures assume all local authorities will maximise the increase.
A council spokesman stated the final General Fund Budget proposal for 2024-25 provides for a net budget of £13,883,770 and a council tax increase of £6.32 on a Band D equivalent property which amounts to a 2.99per cent increase.
In addition, the final Housing Revenue Account budget proposal for 2024/25 provides for a net budget of £17,336,290, according to the council, based on a council dwelling rent increase of 7.7per cent being imposed which is the Government restricted level for 2024-25 rent increase for existing tenants.
The HRA charges which are to be presented as part of the proposed budget include a five per cent increase for garage rents from an average £8.26 to an average £8.68 per week and other service charges are set to increase by a maximum of five per cent.
Fuel charges at individual tenants’ blocks have also been reviewed by the council and the 2024-25 charge is set to be based on the previous year’s usage, estimated costs and on an individual scheme basis.
Council Leader, Cllr Anthony McKeown, said: “The rent increase and council tax increase is in line with what the Government is expecting us to put them up by.”
He added that the increases are the only way to meet the calculations and requirements outlined by the Chancellor and other members of Government.
The council stressed that there is a great deal of uncertainty with the council’s financial future in the long-term which will be dependent upon national funding reviews and the continuing effects of volatile levels of inflation and interest rates as well as world influences.
Cllr Barrow said: “This is the fifth year, or at least the fifth year, we have been looking after the finance as Executive members and each one has been a one-year settlement and this creates a great deal of trouble in terms long-term planning for the council.”
He added: “If we have not got the wherewithal or the long-term plan, it is potentially a problem.
“We’ve got increased costs, we’ve got energy costs up, inflation is up, parts and labour is up, interest rates are up.”
Cllr Barrow also outlined council projects which have had to be taken into account including its ICT plan, reducing carbon emissions at Buxton Pool and leisure facilities, addressing asset management, changes at New Mills Leisure Centre and Fairfield roundabout as well as the prospect of a new, recycling waste food collection service.
High Peak Borough Council officer Martin Owen also said that council will have to use its financial reserves moving forward but it is expected that these will be replenished across a four-year period.
The council has stated that the volatility of the national economic situation remains challenging and unpredictable but the potential impact of interest rates and inflation will continue to be monitored.
A council spokesperson stated: “The forecast predicts a balanced budget position by 2027-28 on the basis that inflation and interest rates return to more normal levels and the council can once again become self-sustainable with minimal reliance on reserves – albeit recognising the risks.”
The council’s Capital Strategy and the Capital Programme have been updated and have allowed for additional investment in priority areas.
Its MTFP includes an updated General Fund Capital Programme of £38,312,460 over the period 2023/24 – 2027/28 and an HRA Capital Programme of £35,170,060 over the same period, according to the council.
A council spokesperson stated: “The volatility of the national economic situation remains challenging and unpredictable. The potential impact of interest rates and inflation continues to be monitored.”
Councillors at the Executive meeting approved the proposed General Fund Budget, the proposed revised MTFP for 2024-25 to 27-28, the proposed Capital Strategy, new fees and charges, the proposed procurement plan for 2024-25, and the proposed new council tax and HRA charges.
The Executive also approved recommending plans to impose a 100per cent premium upon owners of second homes from April, 1 2024, and to impose a 100per cent premium upon owners of empty homes from April 1, 2025, to allow a 12-month notice for the latter property owners.
Deputy Council Leader, Cllr Damien Greenhalgh said: “It’s just great to be able to be in a position to go to the electorate, tell them what we think we can do and then actually do things here seeing it through the budget because the budget is ultimately the expression of what the council sets officers to do.
“So it’s great to see those things are there to give the resources to deliver on our promises and so I just want to note that and hope our fellow councillors at Full Council will agree with us and support the budget as it is proposed.”