The council plan on using £10 million of reserves to reach a balanced budget in the upcoming financial year as the authority faces ‘significant budget pressures that are not fully funded by central government’.

Westmorland and Furness Council has outlined its draft budget proposals for the 2024/25 financial year which sets out how the authority will achieve a balanced budget.

Members of the cabinet for are set to recommend to the council raising council tax by 4.99 per cent, implementing an empty homes council tax premium of 100 per cent after one year and 300 per cent after 10 from April, as well as introducing a second homes premium of 100 per cent in 2025.

A report prepared for the cabinet on the draft budget proposals states the council has identified savings of £10.34 million for the upcoming financial year which the report says will not impact frontline services. The authority will also use £10.64 million of reserves which consists of £2.5 from the general reserve and £8.34 million from earmarked reserves.

If the cabinet recommend the measures, Westmorland and Furness Council will then decide whether to adopt the proposals at a full council meeting later in the month.

A report prepared for the cabinet states: “Like all local authorities, the council has significant budget pressures that are not fully funded from central government, which means that efficiencies, savings, and different delivery approaches are required to balance the budget and enable investment in priority areas.

“The council has a very pressured funding envelope. Council tax income is the most sustainable and significant source of funding for the Council, hence consulting on proposed increases to Council Tax provide an ability for the Council to continue to deliver its essential services.”

Through the proposed council tax rise, the authority hopes to raise £163.66 million which results in a band D council tax of £1,827.26. This is an increase of £86.87 on the previous year.

Councils across the country are facing ‘unprecedented times’ and the financial resilience of local authorities is under ‘significant pressure’, according to the report prepared for the cabinet meeting.

The report states financial challenges from the pandemic have continued with the increased demand for adult and children’s services as well as reduced collection rates on council tax and business rates.

It adds there is ‘no long-term stability’ around future funding allocations and planned reform of local government funding has been put into ‘abeyance’.

On February 5, the government published the final local government finance settlement for the 2024/25 financial year. This includes a £15 million increase in the Rural Services Delivery Grant, rising to £110 million in 2024-25, in recognition of the additional costs faced by councils serving dispersed populations.

On Tuesday (February 5) Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said: “Today, I set out the final Local Government Finance Settlement for 2024-25. This makes available up to £64.7 billion for local authorities in England, an increase in Core Spending Power of up to £4.5 billion, or 7.5% in cash terms, on 2023-24.

“This settlement, and the changes we have made to address concerns raised through the consultation, will provide local authorities with the tools to support their local communities, continue to reform their services for the long-term, and to help communities prepare for the future.”

Members of the cabinet for Westmorland and Furness Council will discuss the draft budget proposals on February 13 at Penrith Town Hall.