Business rates boost, reprieve for councillors’ allowances and funding for large scale arts project - Peterborough budget round-up

On Friday, Peterborough City Council revealed its latest budget proposals.
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The cash-strapped Conservative run council - which has had its government funding slashed - is having to make more than £39 million of savings for 2020/21, although proposals to wipe out £24 million of that deficit were agreed by councillors back in January.

Below are some of the proposals included in the latest budget plans.

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An artist's impression of how the new arts centre at Fletton Quays would have looked like, before the plans were scrappedAn artist's impression of how the new arts centre at Fletton Quays would have looked like, before the plans were scrapped
An artist's impression of how the new arts centre at Fletton Quays would have looked like, before the plans were scrapped

Huge revamp of Peterborough City Council could see services disappear to tackle financial black hole

Sale of Peterborough United stadium to be completed ‘in next six weeks’

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Asbestos to be removed from Peterborough Town Hall as council plans to rent out more office space

Council tax and business rates - £3,893 million saving

The council expects to make an extra £662,000 this year in council tax then previously predicted due to “the city’s rising population and construction of new homes”.

There is further good news in relation to business rates, with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government confirming in December that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough authorities had been successful in their application to keep more of the money.

This means Peterborough will be able to retain 75 per cent of the business rates it collects in the city, rather than 50 per cent as it does currently, with the rest being given to the Government.

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Moreover, the reserves kept in place specifically to mitigate against companies appealing against their rates can now be partially released due to there being fewer appeals than anticipated.

Sales of assets - £3,93 million saving

The council is expecting to make nearly £4 million from selling off more of its assets.

Income from sale of electricity - £250,000 a year loss

The council sells electricity produced by its Energy Recovery Facility, but it said “energy prices recently have been lower than experienced in previous years and the amount of power generated by the ERF has fluctuated”.

Metal - £50,000 a year loss for two years

The council has agreed to pay the arts group Metal £50,00 a year until 2022 to “enhance the city’s cultural offering and make it an attractive place to live and spend time”. This has been match funded by Arts Council England.

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The council added: “As part of the agreement Metal must deliver a number of community arts projects in 2020/21 as it has done in the past two years, including at least one large scale public project in the city, bringing together a diverse range of local residents to participate”.

Metal was expected to move into a new arts centre at the former Whitworth Mill in Fletton Quays, until a bid for £1 million of funding was rejected by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board.

SEND and home to school transport - £287,000 a year loss

The extra money is due to a rising number of Education Health and Care Plans for children with special educational needs, and the need to transport more pupils to special schools.

Councillors allowances - £19,000 a year loss

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It was also proposed that mobile phones and laptops would be funded from each councillor’s allowance, saving £15,200 a year.

However, both savings were subsequently removed which will cost the council £19,000 a year.

Vivacity - £178,000 a year loss

The council had planned to cut culture and leisure trust Vivacity’s budget by up to £357,000 a year.

But now it is saying that “time is needed to develop robust plans and therefore some of the predicted savings are uncertain and should be taken out of the (budget)”.

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Savings which won’t be met - £3.45 million loss in year one, then £3,097 million in years two and three

Some savings previously earmarked under budget plans released in October - and voted through in January - will not be met, the council has admitted.

This includes savings from cutting Vivacity’s budget and reducing councillor perks (see above).

Other setbacks include saving £1,702 million a year less from its contract with contractors Serco which is responsible for a range of frontline and back-office council services and £1,161 million a year less from redesigning the business support/admin/personal assistant function across the council.

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A planned saving of £168,000 a year from renegotiating part of a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contract for Jack Hunt School, Ken Stimpson Community School and Queen Katharine Academy is also now “uncertain” so the saving has been removed from the budget.

The council had planned to cut back the contract for managing the schools’ facilities.