Wyre Forest District Council’s Cabinet meets next week to finalise budget proposals which will set council tax and shape the council’s new draft medium term financial strategy. The strategy sets out spending proposals, investment plans and council tax for the year starting on 1 April 2020. Cabinet’s final recommendations will then go to full council for final sign off on Wednesday 26 February.

The draft budget proposes a modest increase in council tax for district council services of less than 3%.

This reflects the views of more than 600 residents who took part in the council’s budget consultation last autumn - 73% of respondents supported or strongly supported an increase of up to 3% in council tax.

Central government has not yet confirmed controls on the amount of money councils can raise in council tax in 2020-21, so the exact increase for Wyre Forest will be either 2.33% or 2.99%.

Council Leader Councillor Graham Ballinger said: “I’d like to thank the hundreds of residents who took time to comment and give their views on our budget proposals. We believe our new financial strategy very much reflects what people told us.

“It is a pity that the Government has still not unveiled the final local government revenue settlement. We can provide clarity about the council tax increase for 2020-21 only after it has done so. Whatever we decide, most local people are likely to pay an extra 10 pence a week or less for the range of services provided by the District Council.

“The current economic climate is not easy. With Government funding frozen and costs rising, never has it been more important for us to act prudently, implement efficiencies and look for new income streams to pay for services. We believe our draft budget will help us achieve our priorities, to create a safe, clean and green living environment where there are good quality and affordable homes for all and a successful local economy and jobs for local people.”

The cost of district council services makes up just a small portion of council tax bills. Wyre Forest District Council is the “billing authority” and keeps just 12 pence in every £1 it collects.

The majority of money collected  – 88% -  is passed on to other authorities such as Worcestershire County Council, West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner and Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service who set their own elements of council tax independently. The overall increase in bills will be higher than 3% and will vary depending on where you live in the district.

The main proposals in the budget include:

  • Making a major capital investment of £2.4m at Brinton Park, subject to a positive outcome to the bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
  • Allocating an additional £1.5m to the council’s Capital Portfolio Fund to invest in acquiring properties which will create extra income to support services. All potential purchases are subject to thorough checks and members of the Cabinet decide whether or not to proceed with any purchase on the basis of a detailed business case, which is scrutinised in advance by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
  • A schedule of improvements to Stourport Riverside in line with the Master Plan prepared by Community First Partnership, worth £150k in total.
  • 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.
  • Ending funding for Kidderminster town centre activities following the vote by businesses last year to create the Kidderminster Business Improvement District. Likewise to end funding for Bewdley Development Trust and Stourport Forward.

An earlier proposal to reduce how much is spent on cutting grass verges by £50k has been dropped, following confirmation from Worcestershire County Council that it is not reducing the funding it provides for WFDC for this county council responsibility during 2020-21.