Wyre Forest District Council's Cabinet is planning to put an additional £200,000 into the economic regeneration of the area over the next three years. This will focus on Worcester Street, Kidderminster and the regeneration of the Eastern Gateway. This move is part of its budget proposals which were agreed at the Cabinet meeting last night (Tuesday 17 February).
The Cabinet also plans to increase the net revenue budget from £12.8m to £13.4m in 2015-16. This is what the Council uses for the uses for the day to day running of services such as waste and recycling collections, street cleaning, planning and building control and parks and play areas. The budget would then be reduced to £12.9m by 2017-18. For residents the proposal is to increase Council Tax by 1.94%.
The Council has made more than £1m savings in 2014-15 by transforming the way it works and growing income. The Cabinet's plan is to build on this work and look to expand commercial opportunities and gain more sponsorship. This was something favoured in alternative budget proposals, which were put forward by opposition parties, and supported by respondents to the budget consultation. The Cabinet also propose to continue to explore alternative ways to provide services such as joint working and shared services.
The consultation highlighted opposition to continuing the Community Leadership Fund after 2016. This is the scheme where Councillors receive £1,000 each financial year to support worthwhile initiatives and projects in their ward or for the benefit of the district. The Cabinet now plans to review the future of the fund.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Marcus Hart said:
"The Cabinet has listened carefully to the budget consultation and has consistently picked up all of the key messages and revised our proposals for Council to consider accordingly. The only one that we have been unable to include is the move to whole council elections due to unsufficent political support from other groups at this time. We hope to return to this issue in the future as the public have made their views very clear about the need for change."
"The Cabinet has demonstrated that its strategic approach has delivered significant benefits for local people and businesses, while maintaining a strong record of financial prudence. The budget strategy continues the balanced approach we have been taking to reduce costs through internal efficiency measures while growing income from sources other than council tax and Government grants.
The Cabinet Member for Resources and Transformation, Councillor Nathan Desmond said:
"The budget strategy is a tribute to the hard work of staff and councillors in reducing costs and increasing income.It is pleasing to note that more than 70 per cent of the budget consultation responses supported the modest council tax rise to protect vital services communities value. This is most helpful to our overall financial position moving forward. In the four years between 2011-12 and the current year, the hard work to reduce costs has meant Wyre Forest has increased its share of the council tax by less than 2 per cent, which is well below the rate of inflation over that period and therefore represents a real terms decrease. This has benefitted local residents at a time when household income has been under pressure. "
The budget proposals will now be considered by full Council on Wednesday 25 February at 6pm and a final decision on the budget and Council Tax will be made. This meeting will be webcast and can be viewed at www.wyreforestdc.gov.uk/webcast