Wiltshire Council's budget approved - council firmly focused on long-term strategic approach
Wiltshire's Council's budget has been formally approved at a meeting of Full Council which clearly maps out the council's finances for the next three years without having to use reserves.
- Budget confirmed at £466m for 2023/24 with £69m added into service budgets - all underpinned by council's 10-year Business Plan
- Council also outlines its budget plans right through to 2025/26
- £13m of the council's reserves to be spent on business priorities, rather than required to help balance books
- £1.1bn approved to be spent on capital projects over a number of years to improve and maintain the county's infrastructure
- Wiltshire Council tax confirmed to increase by 2.99% plus a 2% levy to be spent solely on adult care
Wiltshire's Council's budget has been formally approved at a meeting of Full Council yesterday (21 February), which clearly maps out the council's finances for the next three years without having to use reserves.
The budget details how the council will continue to provide quality and vital services responsibly over a number of years during the continuing uncertain time for the country, delivering on its Business Plan priorities and operating within its means.
The budget proposals for 2023/24 were formally approved with no amendments and the council also set out its budget plans for the subsequent two financial years (2024/25 and 2025/26), identifying the savings required along the way to deliver a balanced budget for the next three years.
The budget for 2023/24, which is underpinned by the council's 10-year Business Plan, stands at £466m, with an additional £69m before savings added into the 2023/24 service budgets to cover inflation and demand for services. More than £42m of that additional spend will go towards services protecting the most vulnerable in society.
The confirmed budget details how the council bridged its budget gap in a financially sustainable way without having to use its reserves, while limiting the impact on vital services as much as possible.
As a result, the council is in a position to be able to allocate around £13m of reserves to spend on business priorities, particularly in supporting housing provision during the cost-of-living crisis.
The council's proposed 2.99% general increase for the Wiltshire Council element of council tax plus a 2% levy to be spent solely on adult social care was formally agreed. This will mean an increase of £1.57 per week for those in an average Band D property. Around 84% of the council's core funding comes from local taxes, business rates and council tax, which will help contribute towards managing the pressures faced, while ensuring that vital services can still be provided. The majority of funding goes towards the council's statutory services, which include adult social care and children's services - with continued pressures and demands in these areas. Council tax bills for the coming year will start to be issued in March.
The council's capital programme, which is spent on projects to improve and maintain the county's infrastructure, has been confirmed in 2023/24 to be almost £200m and more than £1.1bn across future years. Including funding from the council, money for capital projects comes from various sources, such as borrowing, grants and contributions from developers. Investment will be made on projects including building houses and major road programmes, to fitness equipment for leisure centres and school maintenance.
Cllr Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said:
"It never gets any easier to set a budget, particularly given the ongoing uncertainty and huge challenges brought on by the national and international picture. However, we are confident we have set a budget that can help us achieve our clear vision over the next few years and one that allows us to continue to invest and provide the services that people rely on in a manageable self-sufficient way, with a strategic focus on prevention.
"Our Business Plan guides every single thing we do as a council and it gives us a solid foundation to build on and crystal clear direction, and that's allowed us to plan for the next three years, not just one. Working in this long-term strategic way means we're able to control our costs and do things a little different than other councils and much to the benefit of our communities, for instance not having to spend reserves to balance the books but using them on projects that directly support our residents.
"Throughout the year we've worked hard with our senior officers and have been extremely thorough in looking at and questioning everything we do as a council and ensure it is being done in the most efficient way possible while providing value to residents. We know it's a challenging time for people and we've had to make difficult decisions due to the huge inflationary challenges we're all facing, but a great deal of thought and discussion has gone into every single one so that every penny is spent well and wisely.
"We'll continue to support the most vulnerable in our county, invest in key priorities and projects such as our road infrastructure, climate projects and our high streets - and we'll help people through the cost-of-living crisis as much as we can and ensure those who need our support gets it quickly.
"It has been a challenging few years with the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living-crisis driven by fuel and energy inflation, but there is still cause for much optimism for a bright future for the county and everyone at the council will work hard to achieve it."
Wiltshire Council recently invited the Local Government Association to carry out a peer review on the organisation, which offers local authorities an in-depth look at their service and provides a critical friend's view of both strengths and opportunities for improvement.
In the final report, the Local Government Association stated, "The council has in recent times worked hard to ensure that there is a corporate approach to financial management and planning" "...there is a more collaborative approach to the budget setting process in place, with members being provided with a range of budget scenarios and cross-council dialogue on budget and financial planning scenarios" and "...this year's budget setting approach has been much more collaborative and inclusive..." More information about the Peer Review can be found at https://www.wiltshire.gov.uk/news/peer-review-report.
Wiltshire Council's 10-year Business Plan is available to read at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/council-democracy-business-plan.
The budget papers and a full replay of the Full Council meeting can be found at Agenda for Council on Tuesday 21 February 2023, 10.30 am | Wiltshire Council.
The most significant spending by Wiltshire Council in 2023/24 will be on:
- Whole life pathway (mental health, autism spectrum conditions and learning disabilities support services) - £96m, an increase of £11m
- Living and aging well (adult care) - £83m, an increase of £15m
- Families and children - £63m, an increase of £2m
- Environment (which includes waste and recycling services)- £48m, an increase of £4m
- Highways and transport - £41m, an increase of £3m
- Education and skills - £29m, an increase of £6m
For every £100 of the core funding Wiltshire Council receives, it spends:
- £38 caring for vulnerable adults
- £19 supporting and safeguarding our children and young people
- £10 on managing Wiltshire's waste
- £8 funding the investment in Wiltshire schools, roads and housing
- £9 on maintaining Wiltshire's highways and subsidising local bus services
- £6 on running the council and holding elections
- £4 on the council's property assets
- £3 on the council's online and digital services
- £2 on Wiltshire's leisure services & libraries
- £1 on improving Wiltshire's economy
Some of the 2023/24 capital programme projects include:
- Salisbury Future High Streets - £7.585m
- Trowbridge Future High Streets - £4.403m
- Fitness equipment for leisure centres - £986k
- Council house build programme/refurbishment - £30.580m
- Schools maintenance and modernisation - £8.268m
- Silverwood Special School - £10.262m
- Installation of contactless parking machines £127k
- Ultrafast broadband - £1.011m
- Structural maintenance and bridges - £20.727m
- M4/J17 project - £1.950m
- A338 Salisbury junction improvements - £1.261m
- A350 Chippenham bypass - £2.640m
- Melksham Bypass - £3.106m
- Trowbridge Leisure Centre - £800k (with further funding for this project allocated in subsequent financial years)
- Drainage improvements - £500k