A fair budget built to protect services

MV
by MV
20 Feb 2024
Bridget Kendrick

At yesterday’s Council meeting, Mole Valley District Council (MVDC) approved its budget for 2024/25. Despite the extreme financial pressures facing all councils, MVDC has produced a balanced budget that protects front-line services while delivering savings and efficiencies of £1.8million from a budget of  £11.8million.

Finance Portfolio Holder, Bridget Kendrick says: “The budget supports our ambitious local plan including:

  • Solar provision at Leatherhead Leisure Centre,
  • Dorking and Bookham Masterplans
  • Decarbonisation grants
  • Employment and skills training,
  • Support for community and volunteer groups;
  • A diverse range of children’s activities this Summer.

(More detail on the Annual Plan)

“We will also be investing in improvements in Dorking Hall, ensuring the future of Pippbrook House and progressing Transform Leatherhead and Opportunity Dorking.

“We are delivering savings mainly by internal efficiencies, investing in IT, efficient workflows, workforce planning and have reviewed all fees and charges to ensure they cover the cost of delivery as well as are in line with other local authorities. For the first time we are introducing variable parking charges to ensure fairness for those who park longer.”

Councils face "systemic underfunding"

MPs of all parties have been clear that Councils were being hit by “systemic underfunding”, as well as increased costs and demands for services. MVDC funding has been cut by nearly 30% in real terms since 2016. Mole Valley is also one of, if not the, lowest funded councils in the country, with only around 3.1% of business rates collected returned to the district.

MVDC’s share of local council tax will be £205 for an average household – an increase of 2.99% - below current inflation.  The rest of local residents’ council tax goes to SCC, Police and Fire services and Parish Councils.

Finances are sound and secure.

MVDC has been named by Moody’s and in various press reports as well as in parliament by an MP not connected with the area, claiming that it either had issued or was about to issue a S114 notice or was at risk of doing so. This is categorically not true: the Section 151 Officer at MVDC has not issued any reports to Council that warn the council that they might be considering a S114 notice and currently has no plans to issue any such report. 

The fact the Council is underspending for 2023/24, has presented a balanced budget for 2024/25 and has strong plans in place to find savings to address the budget deficit in its Medium-Term Financial Plan up to 2026/27, means that they are confident that the Council is avoiding any unplanned additional use of reserves and that reserves are currently forecast to remain sustainable over the medium term plan. 

In addition, Mole Valley is listed 146 out of 382 councils in terms of debt, a debt which was encouraged by the Government in 2015 and taken on by the previous administration as way of raising revenue from property investments. The Government is now encouraging councils to reduce debt and Mole Valles is looking to divest of two properties to do so in this year’s budget.