Stevenage Borough Council budget: Where is the council spending money?

Stevenage Borough Council has approved its 2019/2020 budget. Picture: Danny Loo

Stevenage Borough Council has approved its 2019/2020 budget. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Council tax will increase in Stevenage, along with town centre car park charges, as the borough council battles to balance its books amid Government funding cuts.

Stevenage Borough Council’s budget for 2019/20 was agreed at a full council meeting last Wednesday.

Council tax paid to the borough council for a Band C property will go up by £5.43, which is a 2.99 per cent increase.

Each Band C household will pay SBC £181.17 next year – that’s 51p a day for more than 120 services, including refuse and recycling collections, maintenance of parks and green spaces, play areas, community safety, cemeteries, environmental health, and health and cultural facilities.

Labour-controlled SBC also collects council tax for Herts County Council – increased by 2.99 per cent – and the police, increased by 14.63 per cent, so the Band C council tax in Stevenage for 2019/20 will be £1,563.12.

For every pound of council tax paid, Herts County Council gets 72p plus 5p towards adult social care, Herts police get 11p and SBC gets 12p.

Cuts in government funding mean savings have had to be made, with councillors identifying back office efficiencies in order to protect frontline services, including retendering and renegotiating contracts, restructuring business units and making two redundancies.

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There will also be an increase in some fees and charges, including some town centre car parks.

SBC leader Sharon Taylor said: “In spite of experiencing cuts of over £5.33 million to our funding, I’m proud to see this council continues to deliver services of value to the people of Stevenage.

“Our efficiencies and improvements can only take us so far and, to continue to maintain services, we must increase council tax again.”

SBC says it has delivered £13.913m in efficiences and savings since 2007/08. Further savings of £2.11m are required by 2022/23, of which £1.2m is still to be identified.

Key pressures in the 2019/20 budget include a £122,110 ICT improvement plan at the council offices, inflation pressures, and costs associated with enabling the town centre regeneration.

But councillors have pledged to meet people’s priorities, including the regeneration, quality housing, and creating safer neighbourhoods.

Councillor Taylor has also unveiled plans for the Leader’s Spending Initiatives. She said: “I’d like to set aside £34,000 to fund a spring clean of the town. This will be done with our environment teams working with groups like our green space volunteers and our residents’ action groups.

“I have also put aside £1,000 to help celebrate the 60th anniversary of Stevenage Day.

“We can make a contribution of £5,000 to support road safety initiatives and traffic safety measures around schools. This will help address some of the chaos that exists around some of our schools at dropping off and picking up times, which is of concern to this local authority.

“A further £1,000 will be allocated to celebrating the anniversary of 100 years of council housing. In Stevenage, and for many of our residents, council housing continues to play a vital role in the history of our town.”

She concluded: “Here at Stevenage Borough Council we will continue to work together for the people in our town, even as we face continuing adversity, and resources are disappearing in front of our eyes.

“This budget gives us the capacity to carry on delivering excellent services over another year.”

Councillor Robin Parker, leader of the Lib Dems on SBC, said: “Labour should not continue announcing initiatives in the budget meeting, thus denying them proper consideration. The rest of the budget is scrutinised in detail and over many months, by myself and others, at a task group.”

He added: “The eight per cent rise in some town centre car park fees is too much.”

He also said councillors had been told years ago that SBC would start some income generation schemes, and questioned why they have not been implemented.

He continued: “SBC are still taking money from balances each year and aim to reverse this from 2022/23, but the cost of repairing SBC’s extensive IT failures may threaten this.”

He said the loss of government grant is the basic reason for the 2.99 per cent rise in council tax – the maximum allowed for councils without triggering a referendum.

Conservative councillor James Fraser, leader of the opposition, is yet to issue a comment to the Comet.

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