Budget proposals to be discussed by Wyre Forest District Council’s Cabinet next week (Tuesday 17 December) have been unveiled.

A detailed report from the council’s Corporate Director: Resources sets out the draft medium term financial strategy for 2020-23 and the proposed capital strategy.

Ian Miller, the Chief Executive, said: “We would like to thank local residents who took part in the budget consultation this autumn. Over 600 responses were received and they have been reflected in the proposals set out in the report.

“The provisional local government settlement for 2020-21 was due to have been published in early December but has been delayed by the General Election. Whatever government is formed after the election needs urgently to publish its proposals so that councils have clarity about next year’s funding arrangements, including the council tax increases that can be set without the need for a referendum.”

At present, next year’s budget proposes a modest increase in council tax for district council services of 2.33%. The increase in the district council’s tax from 2011-12 to 2019-20 was only 8.5% compared to a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 18.4% between 2011 and 2018, demonstrating that households within Wyre Forest have enjoyed sub inflation increases for many years.

For residents in Band D properties, the proposed increase equates to an extra £5 for the household. However the average property in Wyre Forest is Band B and the increase represents £3.89 or just over 7 pence a week.

Wyre Forest District Council keeps just a small portion of the council tax it collects – the rest is passed on to other authorities such as Worcestershire County Council and agencies, like West Mercia Police and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

So even with the modest increase being proposed in the district council’s portion of bills next year, residents in an average Band B property would still pay only £3.27 a week in council tax for the whole range of district services.

The budget consultation showed that 73% of respondents supported or strongly supported an increase of up to 3% in council tax.

The main proposals in the budget which have not already been announced include:

  • Major capital investment of £2.4m at Brinton Park, subject to a positive outcome to the bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The council’s contribution would rise to a maximum of £200k;
  • A schedule of improvements to Stourport Riverside in line with the Master Plan prepared by Community First Partnership, worth £150k in total.
  • Reducing how much is spent on cutting grass verges by £50k, to align better with the level of funding provided by Worcestershire County Council for this county council responsibility. 79% of people who responded to the budget survey supported or strongly supported reducing activity to match the county council’s funding, while 75% thought that verges should be cut only twice a year;
  • Providing a Community Leadership Fund of £33k for 2020-21. This allows councillors to support local organisations and good causes in every ward of the district;
  • A programme of phased savings from localism partnership working with Town and Parish Councils, which is assumed to save £135k in 2020-21 rising to £700k in 2024-25. As part of this, it is proposed to transfer responsibility for arts development and all discretionary events and summer activities to the town councils by April 2021 at the latest. If this is not achieved, the final year of WFDC funding will be 2020-21 which means that discretionary events and summer activities would not happen in 2021. 67% of responses to the budget consultation supported or strongly supported town and parish councils increasing their council tax to protect local services. “events” and “arts” were supported by 50% or more of respondents as examples of services that should be run by town and parish councils;
  • Ending funding for Kidderminster town centre activities following the vote by businesses earlier this year to create the Kidderminster Business Improvement District. Likewise to end funding for Bewdley Development Trust and Stourport Forward.

For full details of the proposals click here.