Ashford Borough Council
Opens: 23 December 2016
Closes: 8 February 2017
Ashford Borough Council (ABC) have published their 2017-18 Budget consultation summary document and are inviting comments on their draft budget.
ABC has announced the consultation on 12 December 2016, ahead of publication of the summary document on 23 December, by saying that it is likely to still set the lowest council tax in Kent following the approval of its draft budget for 2017-18 by Cabinet members on 11 December.
Residents, businesses and parishes will now be given the opportunity to comment on the draft budget. It will also be considered in detail by the council’s overview and scrutiny committee’s budget task group, as the report makes its way through the democratic process before being considered again by cabinet and council in February 2017.
Ashford Borough Council is the collection authority for council tax and it distributes it to the following authorities accordingly: For every £1 of council tax paid: 73p goes to Kent County Council, 10p goes to Ashford Borough Council, 10p goes to Kent Police and Crime Commissioner, 5p goes to Kent Fire and Rescue Service, and 2p goes to a town or parish council if you live in a parished area.
As its level of council tax is one of the lowest in the country, the borough council has previously been given special dispensation by central government to raise its council tax above the level that would normally trigger a local referendum. The rules have now been amended so that low taxing authorities such as Ashford who have been responsible in the past will not be penalised by the 2% cap, meaning they have the freedom to increase council tax by up to £5.
Local councils now have a choice of increasing the level at which their council tax is set – either 2% or £5, whichever is greater. However, Ashford Borough Council cabinet members have proposed to raise it by £4 for a Band D property for the 2017-18 financial year – working out to under 8p per week on the average Band D property.
Cllr Neil Shorter, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for Finance, Budget and Resource Management, said: “Previous cabinet reports have indicated that the council is in a strong position financially, through its policy of good asset management, planning ahead and investing in long-term assets that produce a net income.
“For example, International House, Wilko, Ellingham Industrial Estate and even Park Mall are investments that are accruing additional revenue for the council. Our approach is to earn money through our commercial approach, rather than just taking from central government or our residents. These assets are giving our finances resilience, enabling us to deliver our services across the whole of the borough. Our shrewd commercial approach, including the agreement reached on Elwick Place, is precisely what is needed in the current financial climate.”
In October 2014, the Independent Commission on Local Government Finance outlined its vision to build a local government finance system that promotes self-reliance and entrepreneurialism – key themes that the council has long embraced.
Cllr Shorter concluded: “The aspiration is that next year we will set a lower increase and we are striving to be in a position where in future years we can freeze and reduce council tax, strengthening Ashford’s position as setting the lowest council tax in Kent.”
The draft budget report also details how the housing revenue account (HRA) is performing. (The HRA is a separate account into which rent paid by tenants in the council’s housing stock is saved. The money in this account is exclusively for the use of management, maintenance and repairs of these properties). Also included is the council’s approach to using capital receipts (such as the one-for-one revenue generated from Right-to-Buy sales) before considering the use of council reserves.
Residents, businesses and parishes will be invited to comment on the draft budget for 2017-18. The summary document, which provides the information, will shortly be uploaded to the following page on Ashford Borough Council’s website: http://www.ashford.gov.uk/budgeting-accounts. Details on how to respond will be given within the document.
Ashford Borough Council 12 December 2016