Devon’s lowest Council Tax is frozen for a fourth year
Residents in East Devon can look forward to paying the county’s lowest Council Tax as East Devon District Council confirms it is freezing its portion of the bill for the fourth year running.
Tonight (27 February 2013) councillors agreed to freeze Council Tax at just £121.78 per year for the average Band D property. This means the average household will pay just under £2.34 per week for all of the services provided by the district council, which include waste and recycling collections; cleaning the streets; providing parks, leisure centres, play areas, nature reserves; administering benefits and delivering new jobs and homes to boost the local economy. The council also provides council housing paid for by the rents of its tenants.
The freeze places EDDC as among the best value councils in the country. In the current year it is the 16th cheapest district precept and with the new freeze it’s expected to move up the league table in 2013/14. The freeze has been made possible by accepting a £71k grant from the Government and using funds from the New Homes Bonus to support the budget.
The New Homes Bonus funds are awarded by the Government for each new home built in an area as part of its pro-growth agenda, and East Devon has £1.176M. £768k of this will balance the council’s General Fund budget, which is allowed by the rules governing New Homes Bonus.
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EDDC receives just 8% of people’s Council Tax, with the biggest share (74%) going to Devon County Council, which has also agreed a freeze. Of the remainder, 11% goes to the police, 5% to the fire service and 2% to local Town and Parish Councils. All of these authorities set their own billing amounts, known as precepts. East Devon collects the money on everyone’s behalf, so is often mistaken for receiving the full amount shown on resident’s bills.
While the freeze is good news for ratepayers, it will mean the council must continue to save money and make difficult decisions in the face of large cuts in Government funding. An example of this is the transfer of responsibility for Council Tax benefit to local councils, where the Government cut 10% from the money available.
In the coming financial year EDDC’s gross expenditure, excluding housing benefit payments, will be £26.43M. This is provided by:
• Fees, Charges and specific grants of £14.99M (57%)
• Council Tax of £6.45M (24%)
• Government Grants of £4.74m (18%)
• Net Interest from investments of £250,760 (1%)
During the budget-setting meeting the Leader of the Council, Cllr Paul Diviani, also announced an intention to freeze Councillors Allowances in 2013/14, which would mark the fourth year of no increase in basic allowances paid to councillors.
Cllr Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council said:
“This is great news for local residents who won’t face a hike in their bills to help us make ends meet. We’re very proud to run the lowest cost district in Devon, and we have a good track record of managing our finances and our business well.
“With that said these are tough times and shielding the taxpayer from tax increases will inevitably mean we have to make a few difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions about local services and assets. We’re putting the most important frontline services first, protecting the things people tell us are most important to them. That leaves plenty of challenges, but we will face these in a brave, business-minded fashion.”
Other measures announced in the council’s budget include a commitment to spend £4.25M on capital projects for the district, making improvements in local towns and villages. Among these are £214k towards improvements to the Axe Estuary Wetlands, £300k on pollution prevention in Exmouth, £150k as part of an ongoing commitment towards a £1.6M flood alleviation scheme in Feniton, £770k for new workshops in Seaton, and asset maintenance including £355k on sports centres and swimming pools.
The council also agreed some special projects, including a £53k commitment to improving its website and providing more ways for people to access council services. It is hoped that this will lower the cost of the transactions the council processes and provide a more convenient port-of-call for customers.
EDDC will also continue to spend money on important regeneration work in Exmouth and Seaton, which both have comprehensive plans to improve the towns. So too will it continue to fund the Growth Point Partnership which is delivering lots of new homes and jobs in the district’s new community of Cranbrook.
Cllr Diviani continued:
“There are some really great things going on around the district and we’re pleased to be delivering a balanced budget which allows us to keep investing in many of the things we need to. There are some disappointments, for example we’d have liked to be able to afford kerbside plastic and cardboard collections, but we’ll do all we can to improve on those in future.
“Over the coming year we’ll keep doing the responsible thing by reviewing our costs and seeing how we can keep East Devon offering the county’s lowest cost public services.”