Uttlesford District Council to cut budget by £1.3m over five years

Uttlesford District Council's offices

Uttlesford District Council's offices - Credit: Archant

Uncertainty over Government funding has Uttlesford District Council gearing up to slash its budget by £1.3million over the next five years.

The tightening of public purse strings could lead to cutbacks in services if efficiency savings and increased income fail to balance the books.

Wheels are already in motion to reduce the 2014/15 budget by £300,000.

Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Robert Chambers, said the future was uncertain but the authority would probably have to rely on cash from house building and economic development.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting last Thursday, Cllr Chambers said: “Government grant funding is likely to disappear over the next five years. It’s gradually going down already and we’ve lost 42 per cent in the last three years.

“To prepare for this it is necessary to plan modest budget reductions for 2014/15. The figure we believe is sensible to work towards is in the region of £300,000.”

Forecasts show the council will have a £900,000 surplus in 2014/15 but a deficit of between £400,000-£500,000 each year from 2015/16 onwards.

Most Read

By the end of the 10-year projections, that deficit is expected to rise to £800,000.

On the plus side, the proportion Uttlesford takes from Council Tax is set to be frozen – a year after the authority cut its precept by 1 per cent.

Officers are working on the basis of it being frozen for two years, equating to £145.95 for a Band D property, before a two per cent year-on-year rise between 2016 and 2019.

Cllr Susan Barker questioned the forecast income from the Government’s New Homes Bonus scheme.

“By 2018/19, we will be building a phenomenal number of houses so I can’t see why there is a big drop off in projections,” she said, referring to the lower estimates between 2014-2017.

Finance chief Stephen Joyce said the calculations were based on figures given to him by the planning department and corresponded to the Local Plan.

There are forecast to be 391 homes either built or brought back into use in 2013/14, equating to a NHB payment of £582,000 each year over the next five years. But by 2017/18, that number is set to rise to 1,138, meaning a NHB of £1.2million.

Further complicating the situation is the potential plan of Ministers to ‘top slice’ the NHB by up to 35.1 per cent.

That would reduce Uttlesford’s total projected NHB income over the next eight years from £4,164,000 to £2,703,000 but as of yet no decision has been made.

The council’s reserves are likely to remain unaffected by the changes, hovering between £6.5m and £7m from 2013-2019.