Councillors at last night’s (Thursday 21st February) Full Council meeting approved the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan and Resource Strategy.
The meeting heard that the council faces a reduction in its budget of around £1.4m for 2013/14, on top of savings of approximately £4m that have had to be made over the previous two years.
Council Leader Harvey Siggs said that, despite these financial challenges, the Council was well positioned to once again provide a balanced budget.
“In these times of austerity, local authorities are facing huge financial challenges,” said Cllr Siggs.
“Fortunately, Mendip District Council has tackled these challenges head on and through a series of efficiencies and innovative contractual arrangements, can once again deliver a balanced budget, despite a reduction in funding.
“It is down to careful financial planning and the forward-thinking way that this council provides its services that we are in a good position to absorb the latest funding cut without a major impact on frontline services.”
Cllr Siggs highlighted the outsourcing of some services to gain the best value for money and groundbreaking new contract arrangements like the council’s Core Services Contract, which will see savings of approximately £300,000 a year, as ways the council was delivering improved, more efficient services.
He also highlighted the council’s plans to create a public services hub in the centre of Mendip.
The district council’s Shepton Mallet offices are to act as a central hub for a number of public services groups, including Avon and Somerset police, Capita and Somerset County Council.
The creation of the hub, which is due to begin later this year, is a groundbreaking idea which will see the district council maximise the use of its council offices in Shepton Mallet, improving service delivery and saving local taxpayers millions of pounds. Financial projections show that the district council could make gross revenue savings of more than £7million over 20 years from the hub project.
Cllr Siggs added that he was pleased the council was once again able to freeze its portion of council tax bills.
“In spite of all the challenges we are facing, I’m extremely pleased that we are able to freeze council tax for the fourth year running. This means that once again Mendip residents will not face any increases in their council tax bills for the services they receive from the district council.
“I hope that this council tax freeze will go some way to helping the people of Mendip in what is a tough economic climate and I think it’s to this council’s credit that our prudent financial planning means we can freeze our share of council tax bills again.”
Cllr Siggs said that there would be further significant challenges in the years to come.
“It is clear that government funding for local authorities is unlikely to increase, certainly in the near future. In addition, the government has changed the way that councils are funded, with more emphasis on the provision of housing and business growth.
“Ensuring Mendip remains a place in which people want to live and do business are key priorities for the council and we will have to continue to look at how we can provide our services at the best possible cost to the taxpayer.
“Fortunately, I feel that as a council we are as well placed as we could be to tackle the financial challenges facing us now and in the future, while continuing to provide first-rate services to the people of Mendip.”
To view the Medium Term Financial Plan and Resource Strategy 2013/14 to 2015/16 go to www.mendip.gov.uk