Dorset Council reveals budget proposals amid ‘extreme pressures’ caused by COVID pandemic

Dorset CouncilDORSET Council has published its initial proposals to deliver a balanced budget in the next financial year.

Proposals for the 2022/23 year will go to both the Place & Resources Scrutiny Committee and People & Health Scrutiny Committee for consideration on December 10.

The council is required by law to set a balanced budget, which means its expenditure must be balanced by income without unsustainable use of one-off, or short-term sources of finance.

This year’s budget setting exercise once more takes place against a continuing, national background of extreme pressures for councils resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, alongside escalating demand to support residents who need core council services to help keep them safe and well.

Dorset Council’s cost pressures have been well documented in the quarterly financial management reports to Cabinet and in the budget update provided in October.

This means that Dorset Council faces a budget gap of just under £36.1million in 2022-23.

This figure is significant but not out of step with other councils. It is hoped that the proposed balanced budget will close this gap to £4.5million by applying a wide range of savings, aiming to improve efficiency even further and protect frontline services.

The council proposes to increase council tax next year by just under 2% and to levy the adult social care precept of 1% – in line with the government’s Spending Review. This is equivalent to £1.02 extra per week for a Band D property.

It is anticipated that the remaining shortfall of £4.5million be closed when the government announces the final allocation of funding in late December.

Cllr Gary Suttle, Dorset Council’s portfolio holder for Finance, Commercial and Capital Strategy, said: “It has been particularly challenging developing the budget for next financial year, 2022/23.

“In Dorset we have a demand for council services that is growing more quickly than funding we receive from the government, the income we raise or council tax, which means constantly looking at doing things differently or more efficiently.

“We believe we have developed proposals to deliver a balanced budget, but the financial challenges are enormous.

“We are sorry that we have had to propose a council tax increase – we know this will impact residents and local businesses. There will be support available for the hardest hit.

“As elected members we have to make tough choices and find new ways to fund the vital support for Dorset’s communities. We will continue to lobby the government for further funding.”

Following discussion of the budget proposals at the scrutiny committees, the proposals will be reviewed and submitted to Cabinet in January, and then to full council in February for final approval.

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