PEOPLE in Taunton and Wellington will pay more for council tax to help fund flood prevention schemes on the Somerset Levels.
Taunton Deane Council has had to close a budget gap of £1million to balance the books next year and the council tax rise would increase the average Band D bill by 5p a week to £137.89 - roughly a tenth of overall bills.
The council, which is responsible for services such as planning, environmental health and rubbish collection, say their £50,000 contribution towards the dredging of the Rivers Tone and Parrett, see page six, is funded by the council tax increase.
Among the cuts and savings, agreed on Tuesday night, are the closure of eight public toilets, axing the parish liaison office post, reduced in-house costs for revenues and benefits services, saving £134,000, and there will be fewer health and safety check of play equipment in parks.
The council say they have received £800,000 less from the Government than last year and their budget gap is set to rise to £3.1million by 2018-19 unless other measures are taken.
Central government has, historically, provided the majority of money to local authorities but, due to the pressures on the public purse, Taunton Deane will have seen its annual grant reduce by almost half over the five years to 2015 - down by 44% or £3.46million.
Despite the cuts, council bosses pledge to invest an extra £15,000 to pay the costs of extra grass cutting and frequent dog bin emptying.
They also say there will be continued investment in housing with a £7.75million programme of improvements to its current council homes, £500,000 spent on new homes, and investment in disabled facilities grants which enable people to live at home for longer.
They will invest £1.6 million in supporting initiatives to regenerate Taunton, £600,000 for disabled facilities and vehicles, and a £20,950 one-off “dowry” to Wiveliscombe and Milverton parish councils to enable them to take over public loos.
To recoup some of the costs, they will increase planning advice charges, axe two jobs and nine vacant posts, and join management and share services with West Somerset Council, a move they say will deliver significant annual savings.
- Council house rents are going up 6.23%, taking the average up by £4.81 to £82.06.
- Off-street parking through reduced costs and contract changes: £97,000.
- Garden waste extra income from increased demand and charges: £70,000.
- Legal and democratic services from scrapping Axing parish liaison office post: £36,100.
- Planning and development through growth in fee income and increased fees: £100,000.
- Closure of eight public loos, £94,350. Nine public toilets, including those in French Weir Park, Victoria Park and Canon Street car park in Taunton, and North Street, Wellington, will be saved.
- Play equipment inspected monthly instead of weekly, £24,000.
- Reduced in-house costs for revenues and benefits services, £134,000.
- Nine vacant posts not filled and two staff made redundant.
POSSIBLE CUTS/SAVINGS IN FUTURE YEARS:
- Increased car parking charges: £190,000.
- Strategic review of leisure services: £103,000.
- Service changes to waste and recycling: £100,000.
- Reduction in unplanned/responsive grounds maintenance works: £29,700.
- Reduction in CCTV monitoring at lowest risk sites, £14,000.