Newcastle Borough Council cabinet members say its important to invest in things like improve life for residents.
They have drawn up plans for a £304,000 ”Borough Growth Fund”.
The cash would be allocated towards areas identified as priorities in the authority’s recently unveiled Council Plan and include:
- £104,000 towards actions linked to a Car Parking Strategy; reinvigorating Newcastle market and a “Future High Streets Fund” bid.” (See attached notes)
- £100,000 to bolster the digital delivery of services so residents can “self-serve” more services online when and where they choose.
- £100,000 towards accelerating residential and commercial development to deliver capital receipts or revenue streams.
Cllr. Simon Tagg, the Leader of the Council, said: “When Cabinet met in September we agreed a vision for Newcastle-under-Lyme of a growing borough that is an attractive and welcoming place for all. The new Borough Growth Fund is about investing in priority areas so that we deliver on this promise to our residents.
“This is an innovative and ambitious proposal which we think will have a huge impact on our communities and our businesses.”
The Fund will be discussed as part of its budget proposals for 2019/20 at a meeting on 16 January.
The authority currently faces a £2.2m gap in its budget, due to factors including a reduction in funding from Government, staff-related costs, and and National Insurance contributions.
Savings and efficiencies totalling £2,468,000 put forward by Cabinet include:
- £500,000 in additional sources of income generation and an increased demand for services that the Council charges for.
- £442,000 from good house-keeping efficiencies.
- £410,000 from staff-related savings. No redundancies are anticipated from these proposals.
- £1,116,000 from New Homes Bonus funding, savings from negotiated contribution rates and advanced payments of staff-related costs such as superannuation contributions etc.
The Council has been told that it will receive £56,000 additional funding from the distribution of the surplus on the national Business Rates Retention levy account. This will be added to the £248,000 in additional savings and efficiencies to make up the Borough Growth Fund.
Around £211,000 of the £1,116,000 outlined above will come from a 2.99 per cent proposed Council Tax increase.
Cllr. Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet member responsible for finance and resources, said: “We have carried out two consultations with the public in recent months to get a clearer understanding of what is important to them with our budgets.
“We have also spent many hours going over finances and spending plans to come up with these very detailed proposals which will enable the Council to meet its statutory responsibility of setting a balanced budget.
“We are working hard to be efficient and effective but despite this the Borough Council still needs a little bit extra from residents in the year ahead. We are also trying to be as innovative as possible and this was highlighted by our recent success in becoming a pilot area for the retention of business rates.”
Once Cabinet members have consider the revenue and capital budget proposals next week, they will then go to the Council’s Finance, Assets and Performance Scrutiny for comment and final decisions will be taken at a meeting of Full Council on 20 February.