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Two Derbyshire areas reveal their council tax increases

Taxpayers in South Derbyshire and Amber Valley could be paying £5 a year more to their district or borough council as both authorities look to reduce financial pressures.

South Derbyshire District Council is on track to either raise its share of council tax by either 2.98 per cent or 1.95 per cent. It faces potential financial difficulties over the next few years.

And Amber Valley Borough Council is looking to increase its share of your overall tax bill by 2.8 per cent for the coming financial year in order to sustain its bounce back from a troubling financial crisis.

In South Derbyshire, the choice comes down to a balance between affordability for residents and bringing in much-needed cash to be able to provide services for the district.

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Next week, South Derbyshire district council will discuss how much it should raise its portion of council tax by – the authority accounts for about 10 per cent of your overall bill.

Council officers are currently planning for a 1.95 per cent hike, an extra £3.28 for Band D homeowners and a total of £171.24 to the district council.

Derbyshire County Council, the police and fire services and in some areas, town and parish councils, make up the rest of your tax bill.

The county council makes up the lion’s share, at around 75 per cent of the bill, and has approved plans to raise its portion by three per cent – £41 extra for Band D homeowners, to a total of £1,424.56.

South Derbyshire officers wrote in a report discussing the potential tax rise this year that a 1.95 per cent increase would leave the authority with less than a million pounds in its general reserve – its rainy day fund – by 2025.

They say “opting for anything lower than a 1.95 per cent increase will ensure that savings measures – without any other funding changes – will need to be implemented sooner for the council to remain in a sustainable financial position into the future”.

Its reserve would drop to £985,672 by 2025, due to the need to rely heavily on this fund to bail it out each year to set legally balanced budgets and avoid a spending freeze or service cutbacks.

Officers also write: “If the council was to increase the council tax by £5 (2.98 per cent) per Band D in 2022/23, this would not put the council back to the minimum balance by 2025/26, but it would certainly ensure a stronger position into the future.”

This rate would see its general reserve at £1,255,623 by 2025, £269,951 higher.

Officers write: “Although the balance in the general reserve can be utilised to fund the projected deficits over the next few years, this is not a sustainable solution in the longer-term.”

A couple of key budget pressures for the council include a loss of £20,000 per year from Forestry England, which had paid the authority for the upkeep of Rosliston Forestry Centre.

Forestry England had initially said it was scrapping its payments but has agreed to pay £6,000.

Meanwhile, the authority says the tenant of a factory premises in Hearthcote Road, Swadlincote, has an option to break their lease in March 2023.

It says that if the tenant chooses to leave it is “unlikely” the premises would be re-let quickly due to its size and configuration, potentially losing £196,000 per year in rent.

Meanwhile for Amber Valley, at a meeting which is due to take place on Wednesday, February 9, the authority’s ruling Conservative cabinet are looking to recommend the 2.8 per cent increase – £5 extra for Band D homeowners to a total of £181.53 to the borough council.

Just before the start of the pandemic and throughout the past two years, the borough council had found itself in dire financial straits, with a budget deficit forecast and the prospect of a potential freeze on further spending. This would have seen non-essential services cut back.

However, money from business rates, Covid support funding and budget savings have left the authority’s coffers in a much better position.

The original deficit forecast for 2021/22 was £2.3 million but this was reduced to £0.5 million, with £8.1 million in the authority’s general reserve – its rainy day fund.

A report to be discussed next week details that deleting long-term vacant posts at the authority saved £210,000; the council has gained £180,000 by renting part of its HQ to the NHS; the Belper River Gardens tea rooms lease has brought in £25,000, with a further £18,000 for boating; a further £35,000 (total of £250,000) was brought in by hiking fees for burial services; and £113,000 was saved by cutting back on external grants.

The authority has had to pay an extra £150,000 to its leisure centre operator as compensation for being closed during lockdown periods, budget papers detail.

It also had to shell out an extra £80,000 for fuel used by bin collection vehicles due to increased purchase costs, alongside a further £125,000 for vehicle hire to carry out additional bin collection rounds.

Higher pay for HGV operators for bin collections has also cost the council an extra £75,000, the authority details.

Meanwhile, some extra costs are to hit the council’s budget in the coming year, including an extra £150,000 for the bin collection contract due to additional employment costs and HGV training.

The payments owed to the borough’s leisure centre operator have also increased by £125,000 due to rising inflation.

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