West Dorset District Council has balanced its budget for the coming year with no changes to services, but it is set to increase its share of the council tax.

Finance officers and councillors came together to discuss budget plans for 2018/19 at a strategy committee meeting.

Cllr Peter Barrowcliff opened the meeting by discussing the council’s recent challenges including the reduction in the Revenue Support Grant from central government.

The grant has dropped significantly between 2017 and 2018 and is set to be scrapped next year, making it more difficult for councils to fund services going forward.

A report put before councillors shows that West Dorset District Council faces a budget gap of £710,000 for the coming year.

Cllr Barrowcliff said the council will address the gap in a ‘variety’ of ways, including increasing council tax, utilising savings and through the base budget review,

which helps identify more

efficient ways of working

for the council.

As part of the council’s plan to balance the budget, a recommendation was agreed to increase the district’s share of the council tax.

The Band D council tax will increase by £5 for the year which is 42p per month, and is in line with the government’s policy. It is estimated to generate an additional £206,000 for the council.

The summary of the council’s medium term financial forecast outlines that the council has £61,000 in savings already agreed, £273,000 from the base budget review, £94,000 from the new arrangements for the Gryphon Leisure Centre, £206,000 from council tax, and £76,000 from the increase in tax base.

According to the report, this year’s financial strategy has been based on protecting services and there being no new reductions to any service, as well as delivering further efficiencies by challenging how they do things.

Cllr Tim Yarker said: “We are protecting services and providing a better service and that is what our residents expect.”

The report also showed that the council has made significant reserves, which are essentially one-off sources of funding. A risk-based assessment of the minimum amount of general reserves is undertaken and has been set at around £1.2m.

Cllr Stella Jones was concerned what will happen to the reserves if the local government reorganisation goes ahead.

Officers explained much of the money has been set aside for capital improvement projects for the area.

Councillors are also confident the long term financial outlook has been ‘improved.’

Cllr Barrowcliff said: “Officers should be commended on the work they have done.

“On the face of it there is little to do to fill the gap in future years.”

Councillors agreed to recommend the budget for approval. The budget plans will now go before the full council, which will make the final decision.