Reporting Person – Leigh Clarke
Councillor Azad, Portfolio Holder for Corporate Financial Planning and Policy, introduced the report outlining the proposed General Fund, Service Plans, Budgets and Prudential Indicators 2019-20. Attention was drawn to a tabled paper which provided information from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) on preparations for Brexit, including £35,000 additional funding over two years to all district councils.
The Executive noted that, following the announcement of the final local government settlement on 29 January 2019, the negative Revenue Support Grant (RSG) had been removed which would save the Council £1 million in 2019-20. Councillor Azad highlighted that the levels of government funding from 2020-21 onwards remained uncertain. It was reported that unfortunately the Surrey Business Rate Pilot bid had not been successful.
Councillor Azad reported that the General Fund Budget proposed an increase in Council Tax of 3% for 2019-20 which resulted in a Band D Council Tax figure for 2019-20 of £240.46 or an increase of £7.00 per annum at Band D.
Discussion ensued on new government legislation to encourage empty homes to be brought back into use. The Executive was advised that the Council would be able to charge a long-term empty premium of up to 100% on top of the Council Tax payable for properties empty and substantially unfurnished for two years or more. In addition, it was also proposed that the current Council Tax discount available for vacant properties be reduced from 1 month to 7 days from 1 April 2019. The Portfolio Holder commented that the proposed time reduction would help the flow of properties onto the market. The effect of the proposed change on Housing Revenue Account (HRA) and Thameswey properties was also raised.
Following a question regarding staffing costs for the Woking Market Team, Officers advised that staffing costs had been offset by income from the Market and that there was no net effect on the budget.
Following a question regarding investment in Brookwood Cemetery, the Executive was informed that once the Council was clear on the future plans for the New Homes Bonus it would be in a better position to agree long term financing plans for the Cemetery.
It was commented that an explanation of the acronyms used regarding land charges in recommendation (v) would be helpful.
REcommended to Council
That (i) the Revenue Estimates and Human Resource requirements for 2019/20 be approved;
(ii) a Band D Council Tax for the Borough of Woking for 2019/20 of £240.46 be approved;
(iii) a long-term empty premium of 100% be added to the Council Tax payable for properties empty and substantially unfurnished for 2 years or more and the exemption available for unfurnished vacant properties be reduced to 7 days;
(iv) the Prudential Indicators at Appendix 3 to the report be approved, subject to any changes arising from consideration of the Investment Programme, revenue budgets and Final Government Settlement;
(v) the Surrey County Council element of the land charges fee be set at £38 plus VAT for Con29R and £19.20 plus VAT for Con29O from 1 April 2019;
(vi) the Finance Director, in consultation with the Portfolio Holder, submit responses to the ‘Business Rates Retention Reform’ and ‘Review of; Local Authorities’ Relative Needs and Resources’ funding consultations;
(vii) the Service Plans for 2019/20 at Appendix 4 to the report be approved; and
(viii) the Food Safety Plan and Health and Safety Plan at Appendix 4a and 4b to the report be approved.
Reason: To recommend that Council approves the resources necessary to implement its Service Plans and objectives and raises the necessary revenue through the determination of Council Tax for 2019/20.