Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) is due to set out its budget plans for 2022/23 at a cabinet meeting on 23 February, as the authority continues its recovery from the pandemic.
Council chiefs will discuss their finance plan for the coming year, which is set in the context of recovering from a budgeted £2.544M shortfall due to the impact of covid-19 in 2021/22, reduced to £1.050M thanks to government support grants.
The council had expected its income to return to pre-pandemic levels by the start of 2022/23, which has largely been the case apart from car parking which continues to lag behind the forecast due to a change in people’s working habits.
And while the council’s Project Enterprise initiative is expected to generate an income of £2.086M, increased costs and uncertainty over funding levels in the medium term mean that the authority is proposing to increase council tax by £5 to £153.91 for 2022/23. It also plans to make a modest draw from its reserves to top this up. Despite the proposed increase, TVBC’s share of the council tax will remain more than £40 lower than the average for the rest of England.
To protect its most vulnerable residents, the council recently approved a local council tax support scheme for low-income households to safeguard them against the full impact of the council tax change.
The government also recently announced that households in council tax bands A to D will receive a £150 council tax discount – around two-thirds of all homes in Test Valley. In addition, the chancellor has confirmed that local authorities will receive a discretionary fund to help lower income households in higher council tax bands.
Finance portfolio holder, councillor Maureen Flood, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult couple of years for everyone, and Test Valley Borough Council, like so many other organisations, has been hard hit by the pandemic. Rising utility prices have also had an impact more recently.
“Things are starting to improve but we are some way off plugging the hole in our budget left by covid. Thankfully we were in a strong financial position pre-pandemic so we are once again proposing to use a modest amount from our reserves. But it’s critical that we continue to manage our money carefully and identify savings where we can. We don’t take the decision to increase council tax lightly, and with many freezes over the years we have demonstrated that if we can avoid an increase then we will. But this will enable us to protect the vital services we provide and continue to support our communities.
“The below inflation rise of £5 on a Band D – less than 10p a week means an average bill of £153.91 for an entire year of Test Valley Borough Council services. This includes waste collections, maintaining the borough’s parks and open spaces, housing and homelessness, environmental health, managing benefits and grants, planning, licensing, economic development, leisure and supporting local communities. It also goes towards major projects, such as the regeneration of Andover and Romsey town centres.
“For most people, the proposed rise will be more than offset via the government’s £150 council tax discount.”