OPPOSITION councillors raised a raft of concerns over the Conseverative administration's budget for BCP Council earlier this week.

Despite the range of issues raised, the Tory group, which holds a majority on the local authority, successfully voted through its financial plans for 2022/23 at full council on Tuesday, February 22.

Residents will see their council tax bills increase as BCP Council implements a four per cent increase in the adult social care element, while the core council tax portion will remain unchanged from 2021/22.

Council leader Drew Mellor said the budget included a "significant investment to protect vulnerable children and adults, and a multi-million-pound commitment towards tackling climate change".

The budget will see £24million allocated towards adult and child social care, £20million towards tackling the climate agenda, £5million towards regeneration opportunities, street cleansing, community safety initiatives, and Festival Coast Live!, £8.2million for the Cleaner, Greener, Safer programme, essential road maintenance, and £1.5million to improve customer services.

However, opposition members expressed reservations about the budget at Tuesday's meeting.

Poole People councillor Andy Hadley said the plan to borrow against the value of assets, which in coming months is expected to involve thousands of beach huts, was "a one year kick which we’ll be paying for over twenty years".

Cllr Mike Cox, Liberal Democrat for the Christchurch Town ward, said it was irresonsible to approve the budget without seeing a report by advisors KMPG, which Cllr Mellor said back the administration’s financial strategy.

Christchurch Independent councillor Lesley Dedman described the budget as "casino economics".

Cllr Mellor told full council that none of the opposition groups had put forward any budget alternatives.

A report to full council included a summary from BCP Council chief financial officer Adam Richens.

He said the annual budget is balanced and he considered that there was "sufficient evidence to support the estimates being used to prepare the budget and that they provide a reasonable and robust basis upon which to derive such forecasts".

Mr Richens went on to say: "That said councillors need to fully acknowledge that the future financial sustainability of the council is dependent upon delivering the recurring savings through the transformation programme as it is currently living beyond its means (expenditure greater than the permanent sources of income)."

He said the following risks are being taken in drawing a budget based on assumptions.

  1. Council will deliver at least a £43m capital receipt in 2022/23 from the securitisation of an income stream which will need to obtain subsequent Council approval (eg the beach huts being sold to a council-owned organisation).
  2. Council will agree to the refinancing of its Urban Regeneration Company (BCP FuturePlaces) and a £8m working capital loan facility within the context of a new Business Plan.
  3. Council will deliver at least a £3.3m surplus in the 2021/22 financial year.
  4. Council will deliver the £4m in unitemised transformation savings in 2022/23.
  5. Council will be able to generate significant additional revenue receipts from new commercial models to avoid the service cuts that would otherwise be needed for 2023/24 and to avoid the need for the council to establish new or reprioritise current earmarked reserves to facilitate this process.
  6. Council will be able to deliver the government’s announced social care reforms within the resources they have announced as available.
  7. The pay and grading project can be delivered within a cost neutral framework in respect of the project’s delivery before 1 April 2024. Provision for increases in cost have only been recognised from 1 April 2024 onwards. No specific provision is made for any associated claims
  8. Government will formally confirm the extension of the flexible use of capital receipts regulations, as they have previously indicated, and that they will remain materially the same as the current regulations.

Mr Richens described as "commendable" the approach of increasing the level of unmarked reserves over the five years of the medium term financial plan to cover increasing day-to-day operational risks.