by BBC LDRS staff and Filtonvoice
Garden waste fees could double and free parking is likely to end in Filton as South Gloucestershire faces a huge funding shortfall.
Cabinet members approved an early version of next year’s budget in October and said they faced “incredibly difficult decisions”.
Proposals to reduce spending and increase charges include changes to the council tax reduction scheme to save £400,000 a year, a new admin fee for disabled blue-badge holders and a 20 per cent rise in the cost of burial rights at cemeteries.
In Filton, South Glos runs the currently free car parks at Church Road, pictured, Filton Abbeywood Station and Station Road.
South Gloucestershire Council needs to plug a projected £7.7million budget gap in 2024/25, £4.8million the following year and a whopping £11.6million by 2027/28 even after implementing £40.3million of cuts agreed last February by 2026/27.
Since that budget was approved, the financial situation has become even bleaker, by £3million for the 12 months from next April and £2million in 2025/26 when an extra £5million savings or income will be required.
The draft budget, which is going out to public consultation, does not propose new savings but does include details of cuts outlined only vaguely in the current year’s plan.
A report to Thursday’s meeting said it would be balanced by using the authority’s remaining reserves that can be allocated to bridge a gap in the budget, although this would leave it without that safety net in future.
It said factors outside the council’s control that had made the outlook more dire included nationally agreed staff pay increases, inflation, fewer homes being built meaning not as many council tax payers and delays to the Government’s Levelling Up Bill leaving the organisation unable to introduce a doubling of council tax on second homes and empty properties.
Consultants have looked at ways the authority can earn £2million more income a year from 2025/26, including a proposed increase in the garden waste charge from £30 to £60 which would rake in £1.3million a year.
The service cost households £36 when it was introduced in 2014 and later dropped to £30, and the report said that if it had stayed at its original level and risen in line with inflation, it would now be £51.48, so civic chiefs want to double its current cost and add inflation annually.
It said: “The average charge of a neighbouring eight local authorities around South Gloucestershire is £55.25 per year.
“Costs of delivering this service and disposing of garden waste have increased during that time.”
There would still be a 50 per cent discount for residents on certain benefits.
The report said introducing car park charges, which have already proven contentious and sparked a political row between the Lib Dem/Labour coalition and the previous Conservative administration over who was to blame, would raise £1.5million to £2million a year following set-up costs between £500,000 and £800,000.
It said: “Uniquely in South Gloucestershire, on and off-street car parking is currently a benefit to motorists that is subsidised by the local council tax payer.
“Further work is required to develop the range of options available from the introduction of a paid parking regime including considering long-stay/short-stay pay & display, parking bays, resident permit schemes, for example.”
Blue badge applicants would be charged a £10 admin fee while a review of cemeteries has found that the authority charges for burial rights for 35 years whereas other councils have longer periods.
“This proposal is to extend the term to 60 years which would facilitate an increase in the fee charged by 20 per cent,” the report said.
The review of new or higher fees is halfway through, with another set of proposals expected in the next few months, including details about what motorists will have to pay to park.
Council co-leaders Cllr Claire Young (Lib Dem, Frampton Cotterell) and Cllr Ian Boulton (Labour, Staple Hill and Mangotsfield) said they wanted the upcoming consultation to be meaningful but agreed the savings and revenue targets would be “frustrating” for many residents.
Cllr Young said: “We are going to be able to balance our budget for the coming year, but not without taking some incredibly difficult decisions that will affect much-loved and relied-upon services.
“We do have choices ahead, but none of them will be easy.
“The reality is that councils across the country are badly underfunded by central government, who seem content to pass the responsibility for increasing amounts of services onto local authorities without the money to pay for them, and to blame councils for increasing council taxes to balance the books.
“In recent years, the council has been able to do this by using its reserves and making efficiencies, but these decisions have been known about and pushed into the future.
“Well, the future has arrived and we are having to face up to this challenge.
“We want to do that together and find a path through it alongside local people.”
Cllr Boulton added: “Our budget situation is affected by many factors that are beyond our control, such as the state of the nation’s finances generally, inflation and how much we receive from government.
“Our residents need our help and support now.
“We need to be there for them, whether it’s providing social care for children or older people, making sure our schools provide the best possible education, or ensuring our transport system is fit for purpose.
“And we will be there for them, but we have no choice now but to confront the challenges head-on.
“The choices we make as a council in doing that will be crucial, even if they may include having to look at doing things that we don’t want to do.
“We will have to prioritise, and that’s why we want to talk to and hear from residents during the consultations to come, about how they want us to act on their behalf.
“In the meantime, we will continue to make the case to government for significant increases to the funding they provide to councils, because the burden cannot be allowed to continue to keep falling on our residents.”
Have your say: Visit www.consultations.southglos.gov.uk/budget2024/consultationHome