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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham £23.6m budget approved with 2.99% council tax rise

The £23.6m budget for Cheltenham has been approved and will see a 2.99% increase in council tax.

The council tax rise will mean an average band D property will pay £237.68, an increase of 13p per week or £6.90 for the year.

In total the local authority will collect £10.4 m in council tax- £330,895 more than last year.

The ruling Lib Derms said they have managed to balance the books despite a decade of "cavalier economics" from central government which has seen funding reduced by half and Cherltenham fall to the 19th worst funded council in the country.

However, the Conservative opposition said the government was investing heavily in the town through the Cyber Park.

Areas of risk identified in the budget include inflationary pressures with a 5% pay increase assumed across the whole public sector.

The council has also set aside an extra £200,000 to cover fuel, energy and other unexpected increases in costs and £63,000 to cover up to a further 0.5% rise in interest rates-which currently stand at 5.35%.

Ongoing volatility is also expected in key income streams such as planning fees and car

parking charges, Recycling material sales are expected to earn it around £0.899m but prices have fluctuated severely over the last three years.

Cllr Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for finance and assets, presented the budget to a meeting of the full council on February 23.

He said a "challenging savings strategy" was needed to balance the books as demand for services continued to increase and Government funding was still outpaced by rising costs.

He laid into the Conservative central government for "drastically reducing" funding by half over the last decade, leaving eight authorities unable to balance their budgets and facing bankruptcy and a survey showing a fifth have warned they may have to do the same this year or next.

He said: "This is the legacy of the political choices of this current conservative government, it's clear that there is a "local authority funding crisis".

"What adds insult to injury is that we are often told by our conservative MP that Cheltenham gets a good deal. I disagree.

"In a league table of government funding, we are the 19th worst funded council in the country. That is a damning indictment of the deal this town gets from his government.

"We continue to bridge the funding gap, this takes time and resources, and no small effort from cabinet colleagues and officers across the council and we will continue this journey again this year."

Cllr Tim Harman (C, Park), leader of the Conservative group, responded: "You wouldn't know there were elections coming but I won't go there.

"We understand the pressures on all local governments and nobody is denying it. They have been intensified by a number of international situations.

"Quite clearly the shockwave that was sent through all the colonies, not just ours, from the change in energy pricing has had a terrible effect for a lot of people.

"I have been involved with local government for 25 years and have never known a time when local councils didn't criticise the government of the day for not giving them enough."

He said central government was making investment in Cheltenham through the Cyber Park and the claim the town was being "starved of funds was a little bit unrealistic".

In total the council will raise £6.28m through capital charges, interest and investment income and efficiencies totalling £2.74. The transition of housing services from Cheltenham Borough Homes back to the council is expected to raise £1m alone and a review of environmental services is estimated to bring in £500,000.

It will receive £6.9m through business rates and grants from central government.

It plans to spend £27.6m on capital projects in 24/25.

Over the next four years it plans to delivery 390 additional homes, including 110 from s106 schemes, 94 from land led schemes, 100 acquisitions and 86 from the Golden Valley Development.

The majority will be for social rent in order to "maximise the affordability for residents in Cheltenham".

The budget also makes a commitment to the delivery of infrastructure and planned maintenance projects to support the reduction of the carbon footprint of both the council and the town by 2030.

This includes introducing 44 new electric vehicle charging points across our car parks, as part of the first phase of a wider strategic plan to provide EV charging across the borough which is scheduled to be operating by Autumn 2024.

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