Council agrees budget for local investment and more savings to help withstand funding challenges

Despite no overall government grant for 2018-19, a successful combination of focused savings, wise investment and effective management ensures that the Council remains in a very strong financial position.

Last night (7 February) the Council approved next year’s budget and other financial plans.

Lead Councillor for Finance, Cllr Michael Illman says: “Planning ahead, our goal to become self-funding and our commercial approach to investing in our own borough will help the Council cope without any overall government funding for the very first time in 2018-19.

“We start from a very strong financial position, thanks to the bold decisions based on our ambitious plans to improve our borough by increasing income, reinvesting in growth from our share of retained business rates and transforming the way the Council works.

“All of this enables us to provide the wide range of vital services and future opportunities that our residents and businesses need to prosper. It also helps us manage the impact of reduced funding from the government and Surrey County Council, without having to significantly increase our share of council tax.

“We believe that every person matters, whatever their circumstances and wherever they live in the borough. Another benefit of our strong financial position is the ability for the Council to provide and build a mix of homes to meet the different needs across our communities.”

Total investment of £92 million in our services, local property and infrastructure planned for 2018-19

As well as our own projects, we are also working closely with partners and jointly investing to deliver key infrastructure improvements across the borough.

This includes working with the EnterpriseM3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Surrey County Council and Network Rail on projects such as

o new Guildford West railway station in Park Barn
o improving the A331/A31 Hogs Back road junction
o new Walnut Tree town centre pedestrian and cycle bridge
o new road bridge over the railway in Ash.

Second lowest council tax in Surrey in 2017-18 – with an increase of 9.6p per week agreed for 2018-19

We keep less than 10% of the council tax that we collect, with an increase of £5 per year (3.09%) in our proportion of the bill in 2018-19.

We have saved approximately £10 million since 2013, partly by improving how we work, and plan to make almost £800,000 of savings and extra income in 2018-19.

This means we can provide the wide range of services that our residents and businesses rely on in the most effective way. This includes:

o caring for families, the homeless and providing transport, meals, activities and support to help older and vulnerable people
o collecting recycling, rubbish and garden waste
o safeguarding and showcasing our heritage and local attractions
o making sure our beautiful parks and countryside can be enjoyed by everyone
o looking after public health and making sure our taxis and food outlets are safe
o enabling a variety of sports, leisure and entertainment opportunities for all ages and abilities
o supporting and developing our local economy and encouraging tourism.

Providing and building a mix of homes to buy and rent at market and affordable prices

We own, manage and rent a wide range of 5,200 homes at social housing rents and these rents are decreasing for the third year in a row, by 1% in 2018-19.

We are building a mix of new homes for sale or affordable rent. Key schemes underway include:

o Guildford Park Road on previous open-air car park site (160 homes, 64 for affordable rent)
o Apple Tree pub site in Park Barn (18 homes, all for affordable rent with nine fully wheelchair accessible)
o Ladymead site near the new Fire Station (12 homes, all for affordable rent)
o other smaller scale previously-developed sites (21 homes across five sites, all for affordable rent).

We are also increasing the homes provided by North Downs Housing, the Council-owned market landlord company, which buys local homes and rents them at low-end market rates.

To free up town centre housing, we plan to explore how the Council can potentially help deliver more purpose-built student accommodation.

Cllr Ilman adds: “It is not just the excellent financial management over many years, for which the Council is independently audited and recognised as providing great value for money. We also take an entrepreneurial view to tackling the considerable challenges the Council faces. Particularly now that funding has to come from locally raised income, the proportion of business rates that we can keep and our less than 10% share of residents’ total council tax bill. This view leads to positive outcomes, such as rental income from investing locally in property, which then helps keep our council tax as low as possible.

“There are further challenges ahead and we’ve already had to find extra money and make difficult choices about future projects. As this latest budget shows, we will continue to prioritise our essential services and improvements that benefit local people and support our economy.”

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