Current Maldon council finances ‘unsustainable’

Maldon District Council has been told its current spending plan for the next three years is “unsustainable” as council tax will rise by £5 for the district.

The significant additional cost pressures of COVID and inflation means the use of general fund reserves is still required.

It means that a budget gap is set to increase from £112k to £1.5m by 2024/25 leading to reserves dipping from £5.6m to £2.3m.

That is below the recommended minimum level of reserves, councillors heard at full council on February 24.

A report in front of councillors said: “It must be emphasised that the current medium term financial strategy is unsustainable. Therefore, actions will be required to address the budget gaps”

Actions to address the finance gap may include closer working with partners, commercial activity projects are underway even though no income has been included in the budget at this stage, and a service standards review is underway to ensure value for money.

Chris Leslie, director of resources, said: “Although the general fund balance is historically high, currently the increasing gap and ongoing need to draw down from it will need to be addressed quickly.”

The council tax bill for an average Band D household will rise from £207.40 to £212.40 for Maldon District Council services.

It means the 2022/23 average Parish Band D Council Tax will increase from £1,830.73 to £1,907.37.

Councillor Penny Channer, leader of the council, said: “We need to do the right things and continue to be a council that is focused on its residents. Services need to support people. It matters for them.

“We need to be responsible, people need to have confidence in our council and our ability to deliver.

“Therefore budgets need to be sustainable.

“It is not just about balancing budgets it is important that use of reserves is not increasing year on year.

“We need to look ahead, organise things consider and take action.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter