Rushmoor Borough Council’s Cabinet has agreed to recommend a budget that will deliver town centre regeneration, protect frontline services like bin collections, and support local people through tough economic times.
The Cabinet heard on Tuesday (7 February) that the council, like many others, is facing unprecedented financial challenges because of high inflation and increasing costs.
The council already has a savings and transformation programme in place, but to meet these new challenges, it has set a new savings target to achieve an additional £2.3 million saving in 2023/24, rising to £2.5 million in 2024/25 out of the overall revenue budget of around £12.3 million.
In addition, the Cabinet was told that although the government’s grant settlement did not compensate for all the inflationary pressure being absorbed by the council, it was better than expected because of a number of government funding changes that were being delayed.
Overall, this means that the council will be able to set a balanced budget for the next two years and to keep this year’s increase on its share of the council tax to 2.99%. This works out to a rise of £6.56 for the year – or 13p a week - on a Band D property.
Recognising the financial problems many residents face, the Cabinet has also already agreed to recommend that the current council tax support scheme should stay as is for 2023/24, but with an additional £20,000 set aside for residents experiencing exceptional hardship.
Councillor Paul Taylor, Cabinet member for Corporate Services at Rushmoor Borough Council, said: “These are challenging times for many people and businesses and the council is not immune to these challenges. I am really pleased, therefore, that we will be able to balance our budgets.
“This is good news and a tribute to the hard work of our officers to identify savings and ways to transform our services that mean we are still able to deliver our priorities, such as regenerating our town centre and helping people lead healthy and active lives, while at the same time protecting key frontline services.
“Our savings programme is robust and includes raising income from commercial investments, reducing staff costs, increasing fees and charges, redesigning and reducing or stopping some less critical services, and continuing to move to more digital services that many of our customers now use in their daily lives. Overall, we are in a sound position.”
To support the delivery of the council’s regeneration schemes and major projects, the Cabinet also agreed to recommend a capital expenditure budget of £44.6 million for 2023/24. This will include funding for Union Street, Aldershot, which is due to be completed in summer 2024, the new leisure and cultural hub in Farnborough, and the proposed purchase of The Meads shopping centre in the town.
The Cabinet’s recommendations will now be considered by a full meeting of the council on 23 February.