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High Peak councillors approve Council Tax increase and rent rise

High Peak Borough Council has voted overwhelmingly in favour to approve financial plans and fee increases aimed at balancing its budget for the 2024-25 financial year including setting its share of the council tax rate increase at 2.99per cent and a housing rent increase of 7.7per cent.

The Labour-controlled authority and other party councillors considered the Budget plan for the 2024-25 financial year, its Medium-Term Financial Plan for 2024-25 to 2027-28, council tax, housing rent and Treasury plans at a Full Council meeting on February 21, at The Arts Centre, at The Pavilion Gardens, in Buxton.

Cllr Alan Barrow, Executive Councillor for Corporate Services and Finance, told the meeting the Government had applied a one-year funding settlement arrangement for the fifth year making financial planning very difficult and despite additional problems with inflation, interest rates and rising costs the council has been in a better position than most to balance its budget.

He said: “This is the fifth one-year settlement and that does create a great deal of difficulty for any long-term plan.”

However, Cllr Barrow stressed that the council has been able to present a balanced budget for 2024-25 and for the longer Medium-Term Financial Plan for the whole of the next four years and that the council is in a much better position than most authorities thanks to prudent, hard work.

High Peak Borough Council has been anticipating higher costs than anticipated originally in the setting of its MTFP last year although general inflation is forecast to fall over the next year.

The council’s Executive stated its financial plans will leave a balanced 2024-25 budget for both revenue and capital with changes to be implemented from April 1 but it has acknowledged, like many councils, there is still uncertainty and risk in future years.

It agreed to set its share of the council tax rate increase at 2.99per cent and to increase its housing rent by 7.7per cent for the 2024-25 financial year in line with Government expectations.

The council’s Housing Revenue Account charges will include a five per cent increase for garage rents from an average £8.26 to an average £8.68 per week and other service charges are set to increase by a maximum of five per cent.

Fuel charges at individual tenants’ blocks have also been reviewed by the council and the 2024-25 charge is set to be based on the previous year’s usage, estimated costs and on an individual scheme basis.

The council is also set to implement a number of increases in fees and charges including increases for using council car parks of between 12.5per cent and 25 per cent.

Its Carelink sheltered support accommodation service will see increases in charges from 3.3per cent, and up to as much as 130.64per cent for a cleaning service.

Charges for environmental crimes are also to increase by 25per cent for fly-tipping from a domestic property, and by 150per cent for fly-tipping from a vehicle, and by 150per cent for littering and graffiti, and by 525per cent for littering or graffiti from a commercial business.

There will also be some percentage increases to cover environmental health and planning advice costs and some small percentage increases for dealing with waste, cemetery and horticultural costs.

Cllr Barrow also outlined council projects to the Full Council which have had to be taken into consideration in setting the budget including ICT plans, reducing carbon emissions at Buxton Pool and leisure facilities, addressing asset management, changes at New Mills Leisure Centre and Fairfield roundabout and a new, recycling waste food collection service.

Councillors, who have expressed concerns about too many vacant properties during a national housing shortage, also approved a plan to impose a 100per cent premium upon owners of second homes from April, 1, 2024, and to impose a 100per cent premium upon owners of empty homes from April 1, 2025, to allow a 12-month notice for the latter property owners.

High Peak Borough Council has stated that it anticipates having to use its financial reserves but it also expects that these will be replenished over the four years of the MTFP.

Opposition Conservative Councillor, Linda Grooby, said she recognised this is a ‘good’ council but she raised concerns about the lack of detail in the budget’s efficiency plans and she urged the council to address the borough’s problems with vacant properties.

Following the approval of the budget for the 2024-25 financial year, its MTFP, and all its financial matters, the council can now take a vital step towards finalising and implementing its plans for the financial year which begins on April 1.   

Many councils nationwide – unlike High Peak Borough Council – have found themselves facing estimated, multi-million pound budget deficits for the 2024-25 financial year as local authorities have been struggling with inflation rates, the impact of Covid-19, the cost-of-living crisis, rising costs and demands, and uncertainty over Government funding.

 

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