Bath and North East Somerset Council is expecting to be left with an unprecedented £1.9 million budget surplus by the end of this financial year, it has emerged.
News of the large surplus comes at the same time as the Liberal Democrat-run authority is making deep cutbacks to front-line services such as public toilets, libraries, advice services and Children’s Centres, which are currently facing a cut of up to £2.3 million.
As a result of higher than anticipated Council Tax collection in the past year, B&NES is also upping the amount it expects to collect from Council Tax in the coming year by a further £1.1 million, whilst the financial settlement from central Government has also left the Council with £450,000 more than it had originally been expecting.
All together, these extra sums of money will leave the Council with nearly £3.5 million more in the coming financial year than it had been previously been anticipating.
Opposition Conservative councillors have said that the large budget surplus will come as a shock to local residents, who had been given the impression that by the Liberal Democrat-run authority that the Council was under huge financial strain.
With councillors meeting on February 18th to set the Council’s budget for the next year, Conservatives have launched an online survey asking residents for their views on how this unexpected windfall should be used.
Residents are being urged to be complete the survey at: www.bathconservativesurveys.com and clicking on the ‘B&NES Budget Surplus’ survey.
Conservative Shadow Resources Spokesman, Cllr Charles Gerrish, said:
“As a result of improving economic conditions, more houses being built, and a better than anticipated funding settlement from Government, B&NES is now expecting to have nearly £3.5 million more in the coming year than it had previously thought.
“Of this unexpected windfall, £1.9 million is a one-off surplus from the previous year, but the rest is an on-going increase in the Council’s base budget.
“To put this in context, £3.5 million is equivalent to filling 100,000 potholes, employing 150 Children’s Centre outreach workers, buying 50 new Dial-a-Ride buses, or taking 4.5% off Council Tax bills.”
The Council recently indicated that some of this extra money will be directed at reducing planned cutbacks to Early Years services by £500,000 to £1.8 million, something which has been supported by Conservatives. However, the remaining funding has so far been unallocated.
Councillor Gerrish continued:
“Obviously the Council will continue to face challenges in the years ahead, but I think residents will be pretty surprised to hear that B&NES has far more money available than it had been letting on.
“Some of this money may need to be put aside to protect against further cuts in future, but it is not good financial management for the Lib Dems to simply sit on a pile of money until election year when vital services are being cut now and fees and charges are being hiked.
“Therefore, we are asking local residents for their views on how this money could best be used to ensure the Council acts on the priorities of B&NES residents, and would urge local people to go online to complete our budget survey.”