News of Tory councils freezing (or cutting) the Council Tax continues to come in by the day. Congratulations to Reigate and Banstead Borough who are freezing Council Tax - the first time in the Council’s history that the bill won't go up.
Cllr Victor Broad, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member for Finance, says:
“To enable this to happen we have worked hard to make substantial savings of over £2 million in our annual budget, which for next year will be £18.3 million. We have examined the way we deliver services, our staffing levels and wage bill, making efficiency savings and improving effectiveness where possible, without compromising the services that we provide. We are also still on target to deliver our ambitious plans for new community and leisure facilities that residents have been promised, such as the refurbishment of Donyngs.”
The slowdown within the national economy has also had a significant impact on the level of income received by the Council such as planning fees, land charges, parking fees. Furthermore whilst the average Government grant increase for councils across the country for this year is 2.6 per cent Reigate and Banstead Council will receive just 0.5 per cent. So to have achieved a freeze under these circumstances is particularly impressive. Savings are detailed here.
On a related matter the Council has agreed to target a reduction in the Council’s own energy usage, and hence carbon emissions, of 30% over the period to 2014.
This was in response to a suggestion that the Council sign up to the 10:10 campaign, where individuals and organisations can commit to reducing their carbon emissions by 10% during 2010.
The Council has been undertaking a major project with the Carbon Trust to identify ways of saving energy across its offices, leisure centres, Harlequin theatre and other sites, and on the basis of this work is
confident that it can aim far higher than the 10% reduction envisaged by 10:10.
Cllr Julian Ellacott, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Environment, says:
“The work we have done suggests that we can save 30% over the next few years by implementing a range of measures, which will also save us a great deal of money, especially if fuel costs continue to rise. Most of the projects will cover their own costs over five years or less, thereby providing value for ratepayers’ money as well as reduced strain on natural resources.”
The Council has already introduced a number of measures, large and small, in the past two years to reduce its energy use, such as:
- Installing “smart meters” in its main premises, allowing closer monitoring of when the most energy is being used.
- Tighter guidelines to staff using vehicles to ensure that engines are turned off whenever possible, as well as use of a biodiesel blend in most of its vehicles.
- Installation of a Ground Source Heat Pump to provide heating and cooling to the new pavilion in Reigate Priory Park.
- A decision to use wood to fuel the new Horley Leisure Centre.
- Setting up of “Green Teams” in Council departments, to encourage staff to make minor changes to save energy.
- Changes to PC and printer settings to save electricity.
- Installation of new lighting in Bancroft Road car park, which will reduce its electricity consumption by over 75%.
The 30% plan is based on a list of similar measures which will achieve the target by 2014, with progress being published regularly on the Council’s website.