SEDGEMOOR District Council leaders were feeling positive as they set their 2020/21 budget this week, increasing their share of your council tax bill by £5 a year.

Council leader, Conservative Cllr Duncan McGinty, said the council had been able to set a balanced budget with no cuts to public services and positive plans for the future - despite continued reductions in funding from central government.

The budget shows that Sedgemoor District Council’s commercial investment strategy - in which they have spent several million pounds on properties including a TK Maxx in Worcester and a petrol station in Bristol - is bringing in an annual income of £457,000.

There has also been an increase in the amount of money raised from business rates up to £3.7m with a further £1.7m estimated for next year.

SDC has also picked up the cost of £160,000 a year from Somerset County Council to keep services such as Citizens Advice Sedgemoor going.

Elsewhere in the budget there is an additional £75,000 toward the council’s work to become carbon neutral by 2030, investment to build 107 new affordable homes across two sites - one in Bridgwater and one in Highbridge, as well as £7.5m into council homes in partnership with Homes in Sedgemoor.

The council is also proposing an additional £200,000 to support the homelessness team, who helped prevent 358 from becoming homeless last year, £100,000 on supporting an apprenticeship scheme and an extra £11,000 to allow the RNLI lifeguards on Sedgemoor’s beaches to patrol for an extended period.

Sedgemoor’s element of the council tax will be increased by 3.08% - an additional £5 per year on a Band D property, that is 9.6p per week.

Cllr McGinty said: “This council is committed to improving the lives of our residents, reducing poverty, improving educational achievement and supporting employment.

“This increase, I believe, delivers our commitment to maintain our council tax at an affordable level while providing a base from which to continue to invest in new and exciting services in the future.

"It is our success in securing inward investment and new funding that complements our history of sound financial management, and it is this success that provides the financial stability to invest in new and exciting projects."

The Liberal Democrats proposed an alternative budget which included £50,000 for a regeneration study of the Market Street area in Highbridge, but this was voted down.

Labour leader Brian Smedley said that ‘in the circumstances, this is a good budget’, but said there was a lot of pressure on Sedgemoor to maintain services.

He also outlined that the next big battle for Sedgemoor would be to prevent Somerset County Council’s plan for a unitary authority.

"Around the corner is the unitary debate – which is being imposed in the name of ‘savings’. But we know that those ‘savings’ in reality mean county level incompetence, and it will be responsible authorities like Sedgemoor that will suffer.