Work to cut carbon at three leisure venues in North Kesteven could be accelerated through potential new Council funding made available, thanks to solid financial planning and in line with the authority’s focus on urgent and impactful climate action.
In North Kesteven District Council’s 2023/24 Financial Plan – recommended yesterday by its Executive Board to go to Council on March 2 – it is proposed that the money is repositioned to help deliver on decarbonisation and enhancements to leisure and heritage assets.
If approved, then £490,800 of this would be used from the funds along with potential external grant support for £1.4 million in total of decarbonisation improvements across One NK, Sleaford Leisure Centre and Whisby Natural World Centre. The three venues contribute a disproportionate amount at 59% of the authority’s overall CO2 footprint.
It would be a significant step towards the authority’s aim for carbon net-zero as a Council and District by 2030, and also help preserve an existing £1 million Climate Response Reserve created in March last year so it can continue funding other actions on climate.
The remainder of the new £1 million for decarbonisation would be used for other investments in decarbonisation and general climate action subject to approval, or if an external grant cannot be sought it could instead be used in its entirety to deliver the most impactful changes to cut carbon at the three venues.
The Council keeps a constant focus on financial planning to avoid shortfalls which could impact on the delivery of effective services and investment, and to prepare for challenges including expected changes in the way councils are financed and the costs increasing now across the wider economy.
This approach, combined with a delay to those anticipated local government funding changes and positive outcomes such as continued business rates growth in the District, has led to the money for decarbonisation being identified subject to the approval of the Council’s wider membership on March 2.
It complements the authority’s draft NK Plan 2023-26 which sets out millions to be invested over the next three years across key priorities for communities in North Kesteven including climate action, and which is also recommended for Council consideration on March 2 following yesterday’s meeting of Executive Board.
A vital part of this stable financial outlook is a steady, progressive but affordable increase in the level of Council Tax. With the District Council only retaining less than 10% of the full Council Tax charge it is important that this vital funding stream is sufficient to meet the escalating costs of delivering effective, efficient, and highly- regarded services.
A proposal is being made to increase the District Council’s annual share of Council Tax by £4.95 at Band D – which for most homes would be charged at the lower rates of around £3.30, £3.85 or £4.40 more in Bands A to C across the whole year for everything the Council does.
This 2.76% adjustment in cost would take the full year’s North Kesteven District Council average charge at Band D to £184.50. The county council is proposing an increase to its rate by 4.99% or £71.46 to £1,503.63 average, the police charge by 5.41% or £14.94 to £291.24 average; and the average charge for parish and town councils is proposed to rise by 6.42% or £6.27 more to £103.92 – all at Band D – for 2023/24. See below for table.
Incremental increases in its Council Tax have helped North Kesteven District Council continue its strong financial resilience, in turn ensuring high quality and value-for-money services. Its approach to financial planning has also previously been highlighted through external assessment as striking the right balance.
The Council is working hard to connect residents with cost of living and other available support, including through its Council Tax Support Scheme which continues unchanged for 2023/24 and an Exceptional Hardship Fund for the year of £25,000, approved last month.
Anyone struggling with finances is urged to get in touch with the Council for a range of help, including checks for any benefits they may be eligible for and support from the Council’s partners.
Council Leader Cllr Richard Wright said: “Council Tax is essential in how we maintain access to excellent services for our communities across North Kesteven, such as our low-cost and free leisure arts provision, wellbeing measures and means of support including help for those in financial hardship. It also enables the effective provision of the things our communities rely on daily across the District including public protection, community safety and our high quality waste services.
“To continue supporting the delivery of all this and more and while mindful of the cost of living and the difficulties it is posing for many households, we are proposing a moderate increase in the level of our Council Tax charge at what we need at 2.76% rather than the 3% or £5.00 threshold set for district councils. For households living in Band A to C homes this 2.76% increase would be a rise to between £123 and £164, across the whole year, for everything the Council does.”
A report setting out the scope of decarbonisation works which could be undertaken at those three Council venues was approved by the Council’s Executive Board yesterday.
Councillor Wright added: “We are always keen to ensure we remain responsive by putting money in the right areas. The funding in our NK Financial Plan 2023/24 proposed to be repositioned for decarbonisation, to assist initially in works at these three venues, is all about enabling more of the urgent action that’s needed now for our climate.
“It’s also about spending to save, by maintaining the high-quality leisure provision people need and investing in their health and active wellbeing in this way.
“Along with our draft NK Plan 2023-26 which connects our actions on climate and looks to acknowledge the challenges from the cost of living, plus our enlarged and ambitious capital programme for North Kesteven worth £250 million over 10 years, we remain focused on investments and positive action across all key priorities for our District.”
Approved by Executive Board yesterday, for example, was also the creation of two new funds to support rural life and the economy in North Kesteven. A Rural Business Grant Scheme of £450,000 in total will support capital investments including rural start-ups and new enterprises, visitor economy and manufacturing supply chains, hospitality and more. Meanwhile a Rural Community Grant Scheme of almost £300,000 in total which will support projects including the creation and enhancement of blue and green community spaces, community renewable energy projects and more.
These two funds stem from almost £750,000 of Government funding allocated to North Kesteven through the Rural England Prosperity Fund, and connect to £3.1 million of UK Shared Prosperity Fund monies from the Government aimed at improving life chances and pride of place in the District through an investment plan put forward by the Council.
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