Sedgemoor district councillors have set their budget for coming financial year and have announced they are to freeze their portion of council tax bills in the Burnham-On-Sea area.
It comes after a row broke out at the last meeting earlier this month, causing it to be postponed, as Burnham-On-Sea.com reported here.
A dispute broke out between EDF Energy, the firm behind the planned expansion of Hinkley Point power station, and the council over the cost of assessing its planning application.
The council claimed that EDF was refusing to pay for assessing the plans and that this would mean it would have to increase council tax rates to fund the work.
However, negotiations have since taken place between the council and EDF, which has said it will pay “reasonable” costs for the work – thereby allowing the council to freeze plans for a council tax increase.
At the reconvened council meeting on Friday afternoon (February 24th), councillors and members of the public heard how Sedgemoor has achieved a balanced budget, despite an increasingly tough financial climate.
“Sedgemoor District Council tax payers will not foot the bill for the forthcoming work to allow for appropriate and proper challenge during the IPC process associated to the proposed power station at Hinkley Point C,” council spokeswoman Claire Faun told Burnham-On-Sea.com.
“As of today, the discussions with EDF are not yet concluded. SDC are still considering a wide range of options that will allow for a level of participation in the examination process. There will be a further report as to the range of options available to Sedgemoor District Council’s Executive on 14th March, and then to be debated at Full Council on 28th March.”
Savings of £800,000 have been achieved by the council through a “managed use of balances” and no cuts to services or jobs have been made.
The savings have come from the continuation of work with parishes to use parish and town precepts, sharing office accommodation, a continuation of ‘Value for Money Reviews’, expanding the clean surrounds service to bring in additional income, external income from major projects and maximising external income.
The council has also set aside £500,000 over two years to bring empty homes back into housing use. This new initiative is intended to bring 100 of the 560 empty properties in Sedgemoor back into use and help residents on the housing waiting list.
Additional growth items of £89,000 were £18,000 to carry out two additional highway weed sprayings on Sedgemoor’s roads. This replaces the service formerly provided by Somerset County Council.
£11,000 is also to be spent on maintaining grass verges to supplement the service formerly provided by Somerset County Council. And £60,000 is to be spent on supporting housing services which is under increased workloads due to the financial climate. Also, a further £50,000 will go towards the voluntary sector, which plays a vital role in supporting communities. The Conservative Group’s budget proposals were accepted. The Labour group put forward an alternative budget which was defeated.
Council leader Duncan McGinty, pictured, said: “For many years, we have kept our portion of the council tax as low as possible, whilst continuing to maintain and improve services. This council is proud of that record and now, when prices are rising on so many products, it is more important than ever that we keep the council tax as low as possible.”
“Again this year we are helped by the Government’s commitment to provide funding equivalent to 2.5% of our council tax revenue thus easing the pressure on local tax payers.”
“We know this is for one year only and as such this will put some added pressure on future years but in a time when so many of our households are seeing rising prices, we feel that freezing the council tax for the coming year is the right thing to do.”
“We know that the future will be uncertain and we know there will be challenges and that is why where we can invest new money into council services we have done so on a short term basis so as not to overburden the budget in future years. Pound for pound, we are still the lowest Band D equivalent across the county and we are committed to remain as such.”
“Therefore, council tax for Sedgemoor in the coming year will be fixed at an average of £130.65, or just £2.51 per week. So this budget is not just about next year or indeed about this council – it is about the future for our residents with continued and, I hope expanded, services across the district as we move into a new era locally.”