A council tax increase of 1.99 per cent has been agreed by members of Dorset County Council for 2014/15 – the first rise in four years.
It will bring the council’s charge for a band D property to £1,191.51 – an extra £23.22 a year. This will be added to precept charges from district/borough councils, town/parish councils, Dorset Police and Dorset Fire Authority to give the total council tax amount.
At the meeting of the full council on 13 February, 34 members voted for and 5 against the proposal. There was one abstention.
In his budget speech, Leader of Dorset County Council Cllr Spencer Flower said:
“For the last three years this council has, quite rightly, maintained a freeze on council tax. However this council, along with many others, has reached the point whereby any further reduction in funding is likely to have a serious impact on the delivery of frontline services.
“The increase on the county council precept is £23.22 per year for a band D council tax payer, or around 45 pence per week, which is in line with the current low level of inflation. I believe this is a small price to pay to avoid a further £1.8m cut to the base budget.”
Cllr Flower told members that, although the council has saved more than £60m over the last three years, another £43m needs to be saved by 2017.
He said that around £28m in potential savings had already been identified in the Forward Together change programme including adult social care, transport, highways and children’s services.
Cllr Flower also highlighted the importance of working with partners for the benefit of local communities.
“It is also important that we work closely with all our public service partners in Dorset to make public funds go further; collaborating wherever possible and making the best use of the resources available” he added.
Cllr Flower emphasised the importance of continuing to invest in the future despite funding constraints and said the council would be investing £188 million in capital projects over the next three years, including:
• new IT systems for adult social care, children’s services and the library service
• essential repairs to Hayward Main Bridge at Shillingstone
• a new salt barn at the Charminster Depot
• a joint project with East Dorset District Council to provide a new civic centre
• rolling out Superfast Broadband across Dorset
“Our investment programme confirms our commitment to the communities of Dorset that we mean to ensure, as best we can, that care is taken to look after present and future generations,” he said.
Cllr Flower also announced plans to give every county councillor £5,000 to spend on county council services in the local communities that they serve.
The council’s total net budget for 2014/15 is £272.4 million and, with continued falls in Government grants, will reduce in future years, Cllr Flower added:
“It is imperative that we continue to look for efficiency savings in everything we do, and look to make radical and far-reaching changes in service delivery in order to maintain or improve the quality of life for our residents, within an ever reducing budget.
“Later this year we want local people to have their say on the priorities they think the council should concentrate on. It’s important the council has a good understanding of the services residents value and that are making a real difference to people’s lives.
“We will let people know how they can get involved in the coming weeks but anyone who would like to register their interest now can find out more at www.dorsetforyou.com/have-your-say”