A combination of careful financial planning, alongside an innovative approach to providing services, has seen Mendip District Council deliver another balanced budget, while freezing council tax for the sixth year running.
Despite further reductions in government funding, the council has protected frontline services from cuts as part of its budget for 2015/16.
Councillors at last night’s (Monday 23rd February) Full Council meeting approved the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan and Resource Strategy, including the decision to freeze council tax once again.
Reductions in government funding has seen around 40% of the council’s government grant cut in the last five years.
Council Leader Harvey Siggs said that, despite the on-going financial challenges faced by local authorities, the council was well positioned to again provide a balanced budget.
“The council continues to face increasingly tough financial challenges and once again we have seen our grant from central government reduced,” said Cllr Siggs.
“It is a credit to this council that we have yet again delivered a balanced budget, while protecting frontline services and freezing council tax for a sixth successive year.
“As a council we have a well deserved reputation for taking bold decisions and delivering services to the public in innovative ways that protect services while saving council taxpayers money.”
Cllr Siggs highlighted the multi-million pound programme of investment in the district’s leisure facilities from a not-for-profit organisation as one of the key reasons behind the council’s ability to deliver a balanced budget.
In November 2014, Fusion Lifestyle was appointed as preferred bidder to take leases of and operate Frome Leisure Centre, Wells Leisure Centre, Strode Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre, Tor Sports and Leisure Centre and Shepton Mallet Lido from June 2015.
As well as investing in the buildings, Fusion is required to take over all the associated running costs and risks, reducing costs to the council which can then be reinvested in other frontline services.
The Shape Mendip public services hub, based at the council’s offices in Shepton Mallet, was another example of how the council was looking to work with its partners to save money. The Hub has seen other public sector partners, including the County Council, move onto one site in the centre of the Mendip district. Avon and Somerset Police are also due to move to the hub shortly.
A new Shared Legal Services partnership with Taunton Deane Borough Council and West Somerset Council was a further example of working alongside other local authorities to deliver value-for-money services.
Cllr Siggs said: “In these times of austerity we need to find ways of doing more for less, and I’m pleased that Mendip is taking a leading role in delivering services in new and innovative ways while working closely with our public sector partners.
“I’m also particularly pleased that for the sixth year in a row we will be freezing our council tax, so once again Mendip residents will not face any increases in their council tax bills for the services they receive from the district council.
“To deliver a balanced budget with no cuts to frontline services is a huge achievement in the face of continuing reductions in government funding, but we are not complacent. With government funding unlikely to increase in the future, it’s essential that the council continues to look for new ways to deliver value-for-money services to the people of Mendip.”
To view the Medium Term Financial Plan and Resource Strategy go to www.mendip.gov.uk