Across the country, the past 18 months has led to some local authorities facing budget shortfalls. Mansfield District Council is just one of these, having recorded a £1.3m deficit in the council’s general fund, but councillors are seeking to resolve the issues locally rather than relying on Government support.
A report on the council’s medium-term financial strategy was presented to the Labour administration’s Cabinet outlining some of the steps it intended to take to fix the financial difficulties the council found itself in.
During a short presentation, Cllr Craig Whitby, the council’s Portfolio Holder for Corporate and Finance, laid out a plan which included steps such as a potential 1.99% council tax rise and the halving of councillors’ allowances.
The pandemic has created financial pressure in “almost all areas of the council”, the meeting heard, with the council’s general fund revenue budget currently in a just over £1.3m deficit.
The financial pressures had come about due to the result of increased expenditure, loss of income from fees and charges, and “lower-than-expected collection” of council tax and business rates, according to local press reports on the documents presented.
Under current local government rules, a 1.99% council tax rise is the maximum a local authority can impose without triggering a public referendum on the issue.
For Mansfield District Council, the rise is expected to provide around £115,000 to the council’s funds.
It would see residents living in Band A properties in Mansfield – which makes up almost 55% of the town’s 50,000 homes – paying an additional £2.58 to the council in 2022/23.
The council tax rise would be coupled with plans for the local authority to also use £300,000 of its earmarked reserves, as well as increase some of its fees and charges to recoup an additional £104,000.
Councillors’ allowances would also be cut by half, raising £18,000, while special responsibility allowances would also be reduced by 10% - bringing in an additional £20,000.
Special responsibility allowances are payments provided for specific council roles, such as cabinet members, committee chairs and vice-chairs.
Mansfield District Council announced the plans just days after the latest Budget was delivered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, which pledged a three-year £4.8bn package for local authorities.
Cllr Whitby reportedly suggested it was too early to tell whether the announcements in the Budget would provide the council with more grant funding, which was why the council was making the “not easy” decision to move forward with the council’s proposals.
Last year, Mansfield District Council received £677,000 in government funding.
Speaking during the meeting, local press quoted him as saying: “Since the Spending Review, new information has come to light which adds a bit of certainty.
“Our projections on Government grants [mean] we are confident they are going to be okay, but we won’t get the details before the Government come forward with the fine-print.
“This will feed into the scrutiny process and hopefully help to shape the budget setting process.”
The proposals are to be reviewed by an overview and scrutiny committee before feedback on the plans is provided to the Cabinet at its meeting on December 13, 2021.
The final budget will be reviewed by all councillors in 2022.