Westmorland and Furness Council protects front line services in tough financial times

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Despite challenging financial times Westmorland and Furness Council has worked hard to achieve a balanced budget for 2024/25 that protects front line services. This is a major achievement for any council in the current financial climate locally regionally and nationally, especially for a council that has only been in operation for one year since major Local Government Reorganisation in 2023.

After careful consideration of its financial situation, and the feedback received via its public consultation, Cabinet have agreed to recommend the following to Full Council on 22 February 2024 for their final decision.

  • a 2.99% increase in the general Council Tax
  • an additional 2% increase for the Adult Social Care precept for 2024/25

Resulting in an overall increase of 4.99% for the council’s share of the 2024/25 council tax payments.

It is also recommending to Full Council to

  • approve charging the empty homes Council Tax premium of 100% after 1 year empty rather than 2, and have a 300% premium (400% overall charge) for properties empty after 10 years – both are applicable from the 1 April 2024
  • approve the introduction of a 100% Council Tax premium on second homes effective from 1 April 2025
  • approve an updated Capital programme 2023-2029 and Treasury Management Strategy
  • approve a new five year Medium Term Financial Plan (MTFP) 2024 – 2029

Over 600 people responded to this year’s consultation.

If approved by Full Council this will mean the council has achieved a balanced budget for 2024/25, which meets the legal requirement.

Cllr Andrew Jarvis, Cabinet member for Finance says:

“As a new council we have spent a lot of effort in our first year (2023/24) focusing on stabilisation and the need to get our basics right. We have been building the strong and sustainable foundations that we need now and for the future.

"We have started to deliver on the ambitions set out in our council plan to create Westmorland and Furness as a great place to live, work and thrive and sound finances are at the very core of us achieving this.

"The cost of living continues to be a concern and inflation, although settling, is still uncertain and is driving up the cost of delivering services to those who need them most. Demand for our services continues to rise and there is ongoing uncertainty about what future funding we can expect from central government.

"For 2024/25 we have worked hard to achieve a balanced budget, that will allow us to invest in and maintain our services.  Although, to achieve this we also had to draw on our reserves.

"We know that we cannot keep relying on the one-off use of reserves.  As we look ahead we will need to change the way we work if we are to continue delivering efficient and effective services to our communities while securing our long-term financial sustainability.

"Finally, I am very proud that we are able to commit to investing over £100million into our communities through an ambitious capital programme in 2024/25 (and £500m over a six year period). We are already working with partners and communities to ensure that this money is invested in projects and schemes that will make a real difference to people’s lives and to our communities.”

Since the creation of the Westmorland and Furness Council on 1 April 2023 the council has been working hard to stabilise and deliver real improvements on the ground to its residents and its communities.

Its council plan lays out an exciting future and clearly articulates its ambitions to make Westmorland and Furness a great place to live, work and thrive.

The council is committed to supporting people to have healthy lives, reduce inequality, drive delivery of carbon net zero, support its communities and enable sustainable economic growth. Its unswerving focus on these issues has already made a positive difference.  In its first year (2023/24), ahead of the £10m investment in growth areas and capacity for 2024/25, the Council invested £5m in its priority areas that have already directly benefited many residents and communities.