TEIGNBRIDGE Council has frozen its Council Tax as part of a budget for the coming year.
Members today approved a budget they describe as 'innovative and fair'.
They say it looks at ways of saving money and boosting business while protecting residents from a rise in Council Tax.
The emphasis is firmly on backing business, economic development and supporting bill-paying residents after Teignbridge unanimously approved its final financial plans for 2013/2014 to 2015/2016 at its Full Council meeting on 22 February.
Headline figures are:
• Keeping Teignbridge’s portion of Council Tax frozen at £150.17 for a Band D property – the third freeze in a row
• Making permanent its popular free Sunday parking scheme in many council-run car parks
• Setting aside £2.5million from the capital programme over the next three years to regenerate Teignmouth sea front, including the Carlton Theatre
• Backing economic development, supporting housing and promoting tourism by putting £400,000 into the Infrastructure Investment Fund over the next year with a further £400,000 to be added into the fund over the following two years
• Contributing £50,000 towards Dartmoor National Park Authority’s master planning and flood study in Ashburton
• Finding additional savings and income of £500,000, £800,000 and £900,000 over the next three years
• Maintaining general reserves at £1.1million
To carry out the ambitious programme Teignbridge has agreed to increase parking income by five per cent through new approaches on how charges are made.
This could see measures put in place that are aimed at encouraging people to use car parks outside town and village centres by lowering fees while charging slightly more in central areas, introducing permits for cheaper parking outside busier times and changing some car parks from short to long stay.
Cllr Stuart Barker, Teignbridge District Council’s Deputy Leader and Executive Spokesperson for Assets and Resources said: “The financial plan is aimed at making sure Teignbridge remains cost effective and focused on giving residents the best service possible while making savings where it can.
“This budget is a fair, consistent approach that allows us to freeze Council Tax for another year – with the aim of extending that into 2015/16 – but encourages economic growth, trade and uses our car parks in new and different ways.
“This has meant looking at new and innovative ways of doing things, particularly around car parking. We want to encourage trade into our town and village centres at different times, provide more options on paying cheaper prices for car parks that are slightly further away from town centres and create a fairer system across the district.
“This goes a long way towards achieving that while keeping Teignbridge as one of the cheapest places to park in Devon, with the added benefit of our free Sunday parking scheme.
“We’ve also put significant capital to redeveloping the Carlton Theatre site, something we know has been needed in Teignmouth for many years. This is a clear message to residents that we are still committed to bringing a scheme forward, with input from all the relevant organisations and groups locally.”
Over the past few years people have told Teignbridge their biggest concerns are around housing, keeping the economy stable through new jobs and business growth.
Those views are reflected as priorities in the Council Plan 2011 – 2015.
A public consultation process as part of the budget setting exercise revealed:
• 93% of respondents supported backing business by investing more in developing employment opportunities and supporting local training facilities to help people find good jobs
• 89% of respondents backed a freeze on Council Tax for another year.
• 83% of respondents support making the free Sunday parking scheme in Teignbridge-owned car parks a permanent feature.
• 58% supported increasing car parking income by 5% to help keep Teignbridge’s share of Council Tax at current levels while maintaining services.
Cllr Barker added: “The savings and additional income identified over the course of the next three years supports the potential for a Council Tax freeze in the longer term. It will also give us the freedom to develop better services and stimulate economic growth – all issues people told us they wanted. We listened and responded with this budget.”