Mansfield Council cabinet passes plan to plug £1.3m budget deficit - including 1.99% council tax hike

Mansfield Council’s plan to plug its £1.3 million budget deficit, including a potential 1.99 per cent council tax hike, has progressed to its next stage.

By Andrew Topping
Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 11:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd November 2021, 11:36 am

Members of the Labour administration’s cabinet met this week to press forward with the plan, which also includes halving councillors’ allowances.

The meeting, which lasted just four minutes and 15 seconds, saw Coun Craig Whitby, council portfolio holder for corporate and finance, present a report on the authority’s medium-term financial strategy.

The report states the council’s general fund revenue budget is currently in a £1,309,000 deficit, with the Covid pandemic creating financial pressure in ‘almost all areas of the council’.

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Coun Craig Whitby, council portfolio holder for corporate and finance

It comes, the documents state, as a result of increased expenditure, loss of income from fees and charges, and ‘lower-than-expected collection’ of council tax and business rates.

Last week, the council publicly confirmed its plan to plug the deficit and make up the shortfall by taking five drastic actions.

This includes increasing its portion of council tax by 1.99 per cent, which it expects would provide about £115,000.

The increase would see residents living in band A properties – which make up almost 55 per cent of Mansfield’s 50,505 homes – paying an additional £2.58 to the council in 2022/23.

On top of this, the authority plans to use £300,000 of its earmarked reserves and increase some of its fees and charges to recoup an additional £104,000.

This comes alongside the 50 per cent reduction in councillors’ allowances, to raise £18,000, and reducing special responsibility allowances by 10 per cent to provide £20,000.

Special responsibility allowances are payments for specific council roles, including cabinet members, committee chairs and vice-chairs.

Work is also ongoing to either reduce the council’s expenditure by cutting down its establishment and transformation projects, or by generating additional income.

This could lead to decisions on cutting services or assessing the level at which the authority provides a service.

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Spending Review

The decision to progress the plan comes five days after Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his Budget and Spending Review, confirming a three-year, £4.8 billion package for local authorities.

Last year, Mansfield Council received £677,000 from Whitehall.

And Coun Whitby said it is still too early to tell whether last week’s budget will provide the council more grant funding.

Speaking during the meeting, he said: “Since the Spending Review, new information has come to light which adds a bit of certainty.

“Our projections on Government grants [mean] we are confident they are going to be okay, but we won’t get the details before the Government come forward with the fine-print.

“This will feed into the scrutiny process and hopefully help to shape the budget setting process.”

Speaking last week, Coun Whitby said it is ‘not easy’ to put forward proposals to increase council tax at a time when residents are feeling the ‘financial impact’ of Covid-19.

The Mansfield Council portion of council tax makes up about 10 per cent of residents’ overall annual council tax bills, with the remaining 90 per cent going to Nottinghamshire County Council, the police and the fire authority.

The proposals will now go before the overview and scrutiny committee, before the committee feeds back to the cabinet at its December 13 meeting.

The final budget will be reviewed by all councillors in 2022.

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