Council's government pot drops more than half in new budget

Mansfield District Council
Mansfield District Council

Mansfield District Council has set out its new budget priorities after losing £5.5m in government grants.

A council spokesman said: "This year’s Budget setting process at Mansfield District Council has been one of the most difficult in the last decade. The reduction to the Government Grant from £10.5m to £4m, reduced income from traditional investment sources, along with increasing demands and higher expectations of service delivery are taking their toll on the council’s finances.

"In addition, there has been a further requirement to make a significant contribution to the Pension Fund required by Nottinghamshire County Council actuaries."

The authority has 'risen to the financial challenge it faces' and has chosen once again not to increase Council Tax for the Mansfield District Council element.

Cllr Roger Sutcliffe, Portfolio Holder for Resources said: “Mansfield District Council is likely to be one of very few local authorities in the country not to be increasing its Council Tax. The council believes that the tax payer will also be facing financial pressures with all the other increases and we should not burden them further this year. So, we’re not asking for extra money from our local residents. We intend to continue our policy of giving the residents of Mansfield and district the best possible value for money.”

“There will be difficult decisions to make this year as the council investigates its current commitments.”

Executive Mayor Kate Allsop added: “I could just dip into your purse and take more money from you, but I made a pledge not to increase Mansfield District Council’s portion of the Council Tax and I intend to keep that promise by managing what money we have, by exploring how we can operate on a more commercial basis and by investing wisely.”

Mayor Kate Allsop's budget Q&A

You’ve returned a balanced budget. What does that mean?

"It means that our income and expenditure equal and we’re not spending more than we’re receiving from the Government and other sources of income."

Why hasn’t council tax increased?

"We are maintaining a 0% increase in our element of Council Tax and we’re managing with what we have. We have identified efficiency savings and additional income as well as using some one-off sources of income and reserves."

What about the other partners’ element of Council Tax?

"Other elements of Council Tax from the County Council, Police and Fire Service are outside of our control."

What are you doing to balance the books in future?

"We are taking a long hard look at the statutory and non-statutory services we deliver, rearranging services to see where we can find savings. Resources are shrinking across the public sector and we have to respond to these challenges with new ways of doing things. That might mean sharing staff and office accommodation with partners to reduce duplication, or making some of our services available on a commercial basis to generate income, such as CCTV. We are also looking into renting out space in the Civic Centre to bring in an income.

How will you raise more income?

"We are looking at the opportunities that being a more commercially-minded council can offer to secure a sustainable income. We need financial investment in innovative programmes and our asset management team are looking into how we can buy now to secure the future. We have purchased properties that will give us a long-term rental income."

Why are you buying property?

"We need to make commercial, common sense decisions. We’re looking at areas where we will get a good return on our investment over time. The income generated will be used to support the council in delivering local services for the benefit of residents across Mansfield and district."

What services does the council intend to use to raise extra income?

"We already sell a few of our services, like trade waste and pest control services, but we are investigating which other services we may be able to use and make available on a commercial basis in the future.

"Our commercial strategy looks to increase take-up of services in the business sector. We will be looking to encourage more local businesses to use Mansfield District Council for essential business services such as Trade Waste, CCTV, Grounds Maintenance and Pest Control."

How much does Mansfield District Council need to save?

"We need to find £4m worth of savings and/ or additional income by 2020."

You’re moving services online to save money, but what about those people who don’t have access to the internet?

"Moving certain services online will help us to save a significant amount of money over time and keep costs down. For example Government figures show that at face-to-face appointment can cost well over £8, a telephone transaction can cost £2.83 and an online transaction can cost 15 pence.

"We will continue to provide face-to-face and a dedicated Contact Centre for people that need it. However, we will be encouraging more people to do business with the council online, this includes requesting and paying for services and reporting issues."

What are the council’s priorities for the year ahead?

"We are continuing to invest in our district, and looking at where and how we can become more commercial in our approach in order to raise income. High on the agenda are health, housing and care schemes. We are developing a housing scheme for older people on the site of the former General Hospital, and we have developed similar schemes at Poppy Fields and Flint Avenue. We have also led on the transformation of Mansfield Market.

"Our three priority areas to 2019 are around creating a thriving and sustainable district, developing safe and resilient communities and providing a clean and welcoming environment for people who live, work and visit our district."

What will happen next year?

"We are already looking at our financial position for next year and we are investing for the future to ensure that we are in the strongest position possible to face what lies ahead."