Council Leader Councillor David Christian JP delivered his annual review and presentation of the budget at a special meeting of the Council on Thursday January 24th, 2013 when the borough rate for the 2013-2014 financial year was set at 395p.
The rate, which represents an increase of 2.1 per cent over the previous year, was approved at a Special Meeting of the Council on Thursday January 24th 2013 when Council Leader Mr Councillor David Christian JP delivered his annual review and presentation of the budget which he referred to as ‘balanced, responsive and realistic’ and achieved ‘against a background of uncertainty at home and abroad’.
The budget was the first since eight new Members had been elected to the Council and a formal Constitution adopted during 2012.
In his speech Councillor Christian said central to Council’s budget strategy had been the decision to make prudent use of reserves amounting to £2.4 million to fund a number of the £24.34 million capital schemes proposed, a strategy designed to lessen the impact on the rate.
Reserve-funded schemes would include the first-year development loan costs for the Lower Douglas regeneration project at Cambrian Place, resurfacing levels four and five of Shaw’s Brow car park, refurbishment of Hutchinson Square and upgrading the heating system at Ballaughton nursery, the latter scheme set to lead to estimated annual fuel cost savings of around £30,000.
The budget process, ‘a long and exacting task’, said Councillor Christian, had been largely shaped by the Department of Infrastructure’s decision to increase waste charges over five years with effect from April 1st 2013 after it resolved to implement the phased withdrawal of its £5.7 million annual waste disposal subsidy.
This move by the department would add £297,000 to an existing £467,000 impact on the Council’s rateborne budget Councillor Christian explained, cautioning that annual increases due to be levied over the next five years would reach ‘an alarming’ total rateborne cost of at least £2,147,660 for the 2018-2019 financial year, equating to a 360 per cent increase.
Despite this ‘sobering’ prospect the Council’s fiscal strategy was to ‘invest to save’ and achieve savings while driving up service delivery standards, he added.
Development at Upper Pulrose would continue with completion due in 2015, £351,000 would be invested in public street lighting, waste management operations would be streamlined and enforcement action stepped up against littering, dog fouling and derelict properties.
The Council remained committed to its support of town centre regeneration, with thenext phase, Duke Street from Victoria Street to Strand Street, Regent Street and Drumgold Street, scheduled to begin in March. Against a background of subdued consumer confidence and the loss from the town of Jessops – and perhaps HMV – to the recession Councillor Christian said it was vital the whole town centre be rejuvenated to attract new business and he urged: ‘On behalf of the Council, I will be seeking a direct commitment from Government to extend the scheme to Castle Street before it’s too late and investors look to the adjacent isle for new opportunities.’
Throughout the budget process councillors had been exercised by the Government’s updated Scope of Government consultation document with its ‘agenda for change’ that questioned local government’s future scale, reach and powers. The Council’s response was, said Councillor Christian, a simple one: ‘Authority for Authorities. Do not just pass on the costs. Give us full and absolute authority so we can deliver a full
service to our customers and create a more streamlined and cost-effective system of local government.’
Concluding he said the budget was ‘a statement of intent’ and continued: ‘The Council’s guiding task has been to acknowledge the scale of the challenge and produce a budget that recognises not only its economic but also its social and moral responsibilities. A budget focused on maximising resources, making savings, securing efficiencies and delivering consistently high standards of service. With this budget the Council is sending out an unequivocal message. We are not a standstill authority. We are a leading, forward-thinking authority.
‘The Council can help boost enterprise and drive in-bound investment. It can help create stronger visitor and leisure economies. It can deliver value for money services.
‘It is determined. It is ambitious. This is a Council with the vision, the resources and the will to work with its partners in Government and the private sector towards a stronger more resilient Douglas.’
Councillor Christian's speech in full, together with an at-a-glance Budget in Brief document are available for downloading from this page. Please refer to the 'What Can I Do Online?' panel opposite.