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News from Cabinet round-up 6 February 2019

Cabinet round-up 6 February 2019

Revenue and Capital Budgets and Council Tax 2019/20

Cabinet members have recommended a 2.99 per cent increase in the borough’s share of Council Tax bills for 2019/20.

The proposed rise is part of a package of measures for revenue and capital budgets for the year ahead which will now be considered by Full Council on 20 February.

If approved it would mean an average Band D property will pay the Council £196.14 for the services it provides residents such as recycling and waste; planning; housing services; street cleansing; parks and open spaces and many more. This is an increase of £5.69 from the 2018/19 amount. 

More than 70 per cent of all homes in Newcastle-under-Lyme are in Council Tax Bands A, B and C and for these households the increase amounts to seven pence, nine pence and 10 pence a week respectively. 

A “budget gap” of £2,200,000 faces the Council in the next 12 months due to a variety of factors including a reduction in direct Government funding (£526,000); a revised New Homes Bonus Scheme (£519,000); staff-related costs such as superannuation increases (£335,000) as well as pay awards and NI contributions (£326,000). 

In addition it is facing a reduction in waste income and recycling credits and a reduction in Council Tax and Housing Benefit administration grants.

Savings and efficiencies totalling £2,468,000 put forward by Cabinet include:-

  • £500,000 in additional sources of income generation and an increased demand for services that the Council charges for.
  • £442,000 from good house-keeping efficiencies.
  • £410,000 from staff-related efficiencies. No redundancies are anticipated to arise from these proposals. 
  • £1,116,000 from New Homes Bonus funding, savings from negotiated contribution rates and advanced payments of staff-related costs such as superannuation contributions etc. 

The Council has been told that it will receive £56,000 additional funding from the distribution of the surplus on the national Business Rates Retention levy account. This will be added to the £248,000 in additional savings and efficiencies to make up a “Borough Growth Fund.”

This new pot of cash is to be used to support corporate priorities identified in the authority’s recently unveiled Council Plan. The money will be earmarked for:- 

A town centre for all (£104,000)

  • Developing and implementing a 10-year Parking Strategy aimed at supporting the local economy. 
  • Revitalising Newcastle market which includes developing a clear programme for improvement with traders.  A consultation programme on this issue is already going on. 
  • Facilitating bids for grants, including the “Future High Streets Fund” which is a Government initiative announced in the 2018 Budget to help local areas regenerate high streets and town centres. Bids will be considered for both Kidsgrove and Newcastle town centres.

Council transformation (£100,000)

  • Digital Delivery Programme - the Council is committed to introducing more streamlined and speedy processes to improve service delivery to residents, particularly in recycling and waste, environmental services and planning. Residents will be able to customise, via a “My Account”, how they get up to date information on particular council services.
  • Establishing capacity to develop commercial working practices to reduce costs and generate improved revenue streams. This includes creating a work force fit for the future by developing the skills of our staff and also investing in apprenticeship opportunities.

Building for the future (£100,000)

  • Enabling residential and commercial development to generate improved revenue streams. We will use innovative models to ensure that when development opportunities arise the Council retains an income stream or reinvests the income into further opportunities.

In July 2018, the Government invited councils to bid for the opportunity to be involved in a pilot project for 75 per cent Business Rates Retention during 2019/20 only. 

An application was successful and as part of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Business Rates pool, the Borough Council will receive an estimated £200,000 of additional resources in the year ahead.

Cabinet members agreed that all of this extra funding will be used to accelerate changes to the recycling and waste services. 

During the last decade the Borough Council has bridged budget “gaps” of £22,456,000 via a combination of savings, efficiencies and additional income. Its Medium Term Financial Strategy suggests that over the coming four years a further £2,980,000 will have to be found.

In addition to revenue proposals, Cabinet members also put forward plans for capital spending of £19.301 million between 2019/20 and 2021/22.

This will be earmarked for a number of initiatives including housing improvements, managing council property and assets, enhancing leisure services, the museum, recycling and waste.

Air Quality Ministerial Direction

Cabinet members were updated on further work required by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to tackle air quality issues in North Staffordshire.

DEFRA has served two “Ministerial Directions” on the Borough Council to undertake a feasibility study with the City Council to determine measures to reduce nitrogen dioxide levels in the earliest possible time and to implement an engine retrofit scheme to buses travelling on the busy A53 from Sandy Lane in Newcastle to where it crosses the A500 and travels alongside Festival Park.

In March last year, the Borough Council and City Council, were among 33 authorities that became subject to Government requirements to take action as part of efforts to ensure the UK meets compliance objectives over air quality issues.

For the two North Staffordshire councils, this meant they were asked to identify actions for the A53.

Now, the councils are considering a Local Air Quality Development Plan which is likely to encompass the whole of Stoke-on-Trent and most of the urban area of the borough. 

The work is likely to involve:-

  • Drawing up a long list of possible options for work to be undertaken.
  • Analysis and modelling to determine the potential effect of each option.
  • Reduction to a short list of options with an analysis of cost, economic impact, health impact and equality impacts.

As far as the bus retrofit scheme is concerned, Cabinet was told that this equates to buses operated by First PMT on routes 3, 4 and 4a that travel on the A53. The bus retrofit will be funded by DEFRA who have said this should be for no more than £425,000.

DEFRA has also confirmed a commitment to cover the costs of the further study with a grant commitment of £500,000 set aside for its completion.

Cabinet noted the Ministerial Directions, actions taken so far plus the statutory deadlines and also supported arrangements to involve local members in the development and assessment of potential options in the study programme.

They also agreed to contact Newcastle MP Paul Farrelly to ask for his support in Parliament over tackling the issues without imposing Clear Air Zones on the area which could see charges imposed on some routes and vehicles.

Cabinet meetings

Full details of all reports considered by Cabinet are available on the Borough Council’s website – www.newcastle-staffs.gov.uk – under the “Your Council” section.
 


Last updated 6 February 2019