At their meeting on 28 January 2021, Horsham District Council Cabinet members will be asked to set the Council’s financial and capital budget for the coming financial year which starts in April. This follows receipt of information from central Government about the amount of provisional financial support the Council will receive during the coming year.
So far in this financial year (2020/21) due to Covid-19 lockdowns and curtailed activities, the Council has suffered severe income losses and incurred much higher costs, and some of this is expected to continue into next year.
To offset the huge impact on its finances, the Council took action to restructure its organisation in order to lower expenditure. This achieved savings of some £1.4m. Despite this reduction, the budget for 2021/22 is still forecast to end £1.8m higher than in this year.
The Council has only been able to propose an overall balanced budget for 2021/22 due to the receipt of additional Government support to councils to offset deficits arising from the economic effects of the pandemic. Without this extra funding capital budgets and council services would have been jeopardised, but the nature of the pandemic means that forecasting remains very difficult.
The budget proposes an increase in Council Tax for 2021/22 of £5 year (based on a Band D equivalent home). This is the highest increase legally permitted without a referendum. However overall, the level of Horsham District Council Tax remains the lowest in West Sussex and in the lowest 25% of all councils nationally.
Horsham District Council Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets Cllr Paul Clarke commented:
“At this current time the pressure on local authority finances is unprecedented. This year’s budget setting process has been one of the most challenging ever and there remains huge uncertainty on future funding, much more than in any previous years.
“As a result of the Government’s grants to mitigate the effects of Covid-19 awarded this year, we are thankfully in a position to set an overall balanced budget, but only for this financial year.
“The current projection is for the Council to have budget deficits over the period of the Medium Term Financial Strategy through to 2025.
“Against this backdrop, as a result of prudent financial planning over a number of years, we can continue to work to deliver our capital programme plans and deliver our services for the benefit of residents of the District.”
The proposals, if supported, will be recommended to full Council on 10 February 2021.