Bedford Borough Council finds £4 million council tax surplus

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Lower unemployment than expected in Bedford has resulted in an estimated council tax surplus of more than £4 million.

And the cash is set to be shared between Bedford Borough Council, the Police & Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire and the Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Authority.

The council’s Executive Committee was told that the extra cash was the result of fewer residents claiming council tax support due to lower unemployment than had been feared.

Cllr Michael Headley (LibDems, Putnoe Ward) the portfolio holder for finance presented a report to the committee at its meeting last night (Wednesday, January 5).

He said: “Unemployment has thankfully not been as high as we feared, and as many people feared, meaning that we’ve been able to collect more council tax than originally forecast.”

Under the Local Government Finance Act 1992 the council has to determine the estimated surplus/deficit on the Collection Fund as at March 31 in respect of Council Tax prior to January 15.

This is to enable the precepting authorities to take their share of any surplus or deficit into account before finalising their precepts for 2022/2023.

The surplus is to be shared in proportion to the 2021/2022 precepts.

Cllr Headley made two changes to the original recommendation put to the Executive.

“This is to clarify that it’s been a two-stage process this year with estimating the collection fund surplus or deficit,” he said.

“That’s because of the need to spread last year’s deficit over three years and that was something the government brought in across all councils, because, obviously, of the very unprecedented nature with COVID and the impact on council tax right across the country last year.

“Firstly, 4.222 [million pounds] should be changed to 4.604 [million pounds] because that’s the figure before the adjustment and that’s the correct figure,” he said.

The second amendment was to add another sentence at the end of the recommendation that says this is then reduced by the fixed deficit spread as required by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government last year.

The report said that when the deficit spreading mechanism is taken into account the council’s share of the Collection Fund surplus is forecast to be £3,520,729.

The estimated amounts for the Police & Crime Commissioner for Bedfordshire and Bedfordshire Fire & Rescue Authority are £483,670 and £217,229 respectively.

The recommendation was agreed by the Executive without questions or comments from the members.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter

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