PEOPLE in the Taunton and Wellington areas could have to pay more council tax to help fund work to prevent a repeat of the Somerset Levels flooding.
Taunton Deane Council, which is responsible for services such as planning, environmental health and rubbish collection, is increasing its council tax demand for the year from April by 2% - raising its share of Band D average bills by £2.70 (about 5p a week) to £137.89, roughly a tenth of overall bills.
Receiving £800,000 less from the Government than last year, the authority has had to balance the books through cutbacks, increased charges and job losses.
Public loos are to be closed, council house rents will rise and play equipment in parks will undergo fewer health and safety checks.
But the council will give £50,000 – about half of its increased council tax income - towards dredging the Rivers Tone and Parrett in a bid to prevent flooding similar to this year and last on the Levels.
Council leader Cllr John Williams (Conservative) said: “The floods we’re experiencing this year are devastating for so many who live and work on the Levels and Moors – it’s the second time in 18 months people have suffered extreme flooding.
“We need to work with other partners to try to find a long-term solution to the extreme events we’re experiencing now.”
Mr Williams said savings were needed as by next year the council will have seen its Government grant cut by £3.46million to £4.3million over five years.
He said: “We’ve come up with a balanced budget in the face of quite unprecedented reductions in our Government grant.
“We’ve increased the council tax by 2% to make sure we can protect our services for our community through the year to come.
“This year we’ve protected most of the frontline services and we’re responding to a catastrophic event down on the Moors.
“Most of the reductions are in administration.
“We have many challenges and uncertainties ahead, but there are opportunities for growth and we have a budget that’s sustainable into the future and protects frontline services.”
Opposition leader Cllr Jefferson Horsley (LibDem) said he supported the council tax increase and the cash towards dredging the Levels.
The Deane’s announcement comes after Somerset County Council, which is responsible for education, highways and social services, froze its council tax demand, meaning its share of Band D bills will remain at £1,027.
The police, fire and rescue service and parish or town council demands will be added to the overall bill.
*A new homes bonus of £1.9million will go on growth and transformation projects such as the Firepool development, affordable housing, employment land, improving Taunton town centre and employment land for hi-tech industry and warehouses at Bathpool.
A partnership with West Somerset Council to share management and services has helped cut costs, with further savings proposed.
Increased council house rents will help ensure quality homes and allow the council to invest in new houses.
Station Road swimming pool is currently undergoing renovation work, while a new pool is planned at Blackbrook.
Council house rents are going up 6.23%, taking the average up by £4.81 to £82.06.
Off-street parking through reduced costs and contract changes: £97,000.
Garden waste extra income from increased demand and charges: £70,000.
Legal and democratic services from scrapping Mayor’s leased car, axing Sergeant at Mace role and parish liaison office post: £53,300.
Planning and development through growth in fee income and increased fees: £100,000.
Closure of 10 public loos, £115,300.
Play equipment inspected monthly instead of weekly, £24,000.
Reduced in-house costs for revenues and benefits services, £134,000.
Nine vacant posts not filled and three staff made redundant.
POSSIBLE CUTS/SAVINGS IN FUTURE YEARS.
Increased car parking charges: £190,000.
Strategic review of leisure services: £103,000.
Service changes to waste and recycling: £100,000.
Reduction in unplanned/responsive grounds maintenance works: £29,700.
Reduction in CCTV monitoring at lowest risk sites, £14,000.