COUNCIL tax is set to rise next year as county chiefs look to set a balanced budget.
Dorset Council has published its initial proposals for the 2023-24 financial year, with a total net budget of £348 million.
The council says the proposals would see essential frontline council services, such as libraries and road maintenance, protected from cuts despite ‘extreme pressures’ of the current financial climate.
The council provides around 450 different services to just under 380,000 residents.
Under UK law, the council has to set a balanced budget, with its expenditure balanced by income without unsustainable use of one-off, or short-term sources of finance.
It said the 2023-24 budget is being set ‘against a national background of extreme pressures for councils’.
“These pressures include the high level of inflation which affects the cost of delivering council services, and also the continued growth in need for social care services as a result of the ageing population,” the council said.
As a result, the council proposes to increase council tax next year by just under 2 percent – and to levy the adult social care precept of 2 percent.
The 3.9974 percent increase – less than the maximum 5 percent allowed in the Government’s Spending Review of December 2022 – is the equivalent of an extra £1.41 in council tax per week for a Band D property.
However, the final bill received by households will also include precepts – funding requests – from other authorities, such as the police, fire and parish councils, so will be higher.
Cllr Gary Suttle, portfolio holder for finance, commercial and capital strategy, said: “We have carefully developed proposals to deliver a balanced budget, in a national context of significant financial challenge.
“Our overriding aim is to protect the essential frontline council services on which local residents and businesses rely.
“The proposals do include a council tax increase, however we have kept to it to the minimum possible, despite the current high level of inflation. We continue to provide financial support for those hardest hit.”
He said becoming a unitary authority in 2019 – which saw the abolition of district councils across the county – had led to efficiency savings of £76 million, which has been reinvested to protect frontline services, including adult social care.
“Our prudent budget management has meant that Dorset has not faced the same cuts to essential services as many other areas,” Cllr Suttle added.
“However, we continue to lobby government for fairer funding for Dorset so that we can reduce the burden on local taxpayers in future.”
Writing in his report to councillors outlining the budget proposals, executive director of corporate development, Aidan Dunn, wrote: “The financial climate remains extremely challenging.
“Although the Spending Review will allow us to make progress in many key areas of transformation and service improvement, a single-year settlement for local government still hampers our ability to invest effectively in future service strategy.
“There are clearly still challenges ahead, meaning the council started
planning for 2023/24 early to develop and implement robust plans to fit
within our assumed budget envelope and to keep all members well informed around budget development and strategy.
He added: “While I believe these budget estimates to be robust and that reserves are adequate, significant risk remains due to the global economic
The proposals will now be considered by the two scrutiny committees, then reviewed and submitted to the council’s Cabinet on January 23, and then to Full Council in February for final approval.
The public meetings are being held in person as follows:
10am, January 10: People and Health Scrutiny Committee
11.30am, January 12: Place and Resources Scrutiny Committee (papers will be published on Wednesday, January 4
10am, January 23: Cabinet
6.30pm, February 14: Full Council