Winchester City Council gives the green light to a budget which improves services, invests in public spaces and addresses the climate emergency
Yesterday [Wednesday 23rd February] Winchester City Council Councillors approved a 2022/23 budget that invests in public services whilst keeping increases to Council Tax and other charges well below inflation. An alternative budget proposed by the opposition was not agreed after a vote, and the original budget was then passed.
This news follows a challenging time for local authorities – last February, the council had to reduce overall costs by £3m to balance the budget.
Highlights from the newly approved 2022/23 budget include:
· £1.1m to fund projects to respond to the Climate Emergency and help improve the environment;
· Additional monies for Council Tax hardship grants;
· A proposed £10 discount for garden waste subscriptions for residents in receipt of benefits;
· A Council Tax increase of 2.7% and increases of 3% for other fees and charges (current inflation stands at 5.4%).
The delay in planned Government changes to council funding has meant local authorities will receive one more year of “New Homes Bonus” which, for Winchester, will be £1.3m.
This one-off sum will be invested across the district to support climate emergency work, tackle fly-tipping, decarbonise transport and protect our historic monuments. The money will be invested as follows:
· £450,000 on historic monuments;
· £250,00 to trial low-carbon bin lorries and/or buses;
· £185,000 to address fly tipping and street cleansing;
· £150,000 on preparation for a food waste trial in 2023;
· £100,000 for the Council Tax Hardship Fund to help struggling households;
· £40,000 on bike storage;
· £25,000 for the council’s City of Sanctuary commitments.
Cllr Neil Cutler, Winchester City Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Risk, said:
“The budget approved at Council today reflects our plans to continue to improve essential services, support our work to tackle the climate emergency and improve neighbourhoods across the district. We’ve included measures to help those most in need and, whilst we can’t avoid increases to council tax and other charges, these have been kept well below inflation.
“The careful approach we adopted last year has enabled us to approve a positive budget for 2022/23 which maintains all key services and makes provisions for investment in our priorities. This includes our continued commitment to tackling fly-tipping, which has been such a scourge upon our district, particularly in rural areas.”
Across the district, the recovery from the impacts of the pandemic has been healthy, and the council is finishing the current financial year in a stronger position than initially forecasted. Our city and town centres have welcomed a high number of visitors, with shoppers returning, and this has resulted the Council’s income improving to near pre-pandemic levels. The new garden waste service has also proved popular with over 21,000 households subscribing in the last year.