Chamber welcomes prudent budget but warns of business issues that may affect future years growth
26 Jan 12
Today, Hampshire Chamber of Commerce joined other members of the local business community at a hastily arranged Southampton City Council (SCC) Budget consultation meeting at the Ocean Village Innovation Centre, to hear their budget proposals for the coming year and receive an update on developments in the city.
Presented by Council Leader Councillor Royston Smith, Dawn Baxendale, Director of Economic Development and Andy Lowe, Head of Finance and I.T., the key features of the budget are:
> SCC are heavily relaint on Government funding with up to 70% of income received through Government grants
> Government grant reduction in 2012/13 is likely to be -6.6% (over 4 years the effect is likely to be c -28% to -30%)
> Fees and charges levied locally by SCC are falling
> Council Tax is frozen for 2013 (Council Tax is capped with Councils unable raise beyond 3.5% without holding a referendum)
> Shortfalls will undoubtedly put pressure on reserves.
Explaining efficiency savings had meant a significant shift in support required from partnerships, notably Southampton Connect over the last year, Andy Lowe explained that unfortunately there will need to be further job losses in 2012/13 of 104, taking the total for year 2012/13 to 211.
Jimmy Chestnutt, Chief Executive for Hampshire Chamber of Commerce said, "Southampton City Council's budget is fairly prudent and cautious. However, gaps are likely to be much wider in the coming years than the forecasts suggest which will place even more pressure on the private sector, Council reserves and Council taxpayers."
In terms of the localisation of business rates, whilst this will be vital as part of driving forward the community and business wellbeing, Ian Welland Head of Area Development for Hampshire Chamber of Commerce asked for the Council to be aware of the effects of rateable value appeals and a new rating list for 2015/16 which will impact the local collection rate. Reference was made that the current list values were assigned based on the last few years of the boom-period however, the new list will represent values set during a recession therefore this will affect the levy.
Another issue raised by Ian was concerning the Community Infrastructure Levy Payments Schedule which is currently out to consultation. In response, Councillor Smith said that Southampton would be competitive with a view to retaining developers on board and ensuring that CILs made a positive impact going forward as likely replacement for Section 106 developer contributions.
Local retailers in Southampton's Bedford Place and East Street are to be handed a concessionary measure on parking with an offer from the Council to waive the cost on the first 10 minutes parking tariff on-street. Cllr Smith said this would help "passing trade."
Subject to Cabinet approval, the Council's budget proposals will be uploaded to their website.