A SIGNIFICANT loss in business rates as a result of the Maidenhead regeneration works forces the council to find £15m savings over five years.

Councillors sitting on the corporate overview and scrutiny panel were presented with the medium-term financial strategy 2023/24 to 2027/28, which outlines financial planning and management within that timeframe.

The report warns the council may need to save £15m over the five-year period unless government funding in form of grants and the ability to raise council tax above the cap is not forthcoming.

In 2023/24, the Royal Borough will have to find nearly £4.8m of savings.

Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday, June 22, Cllr David Hilton (Con: Ascot & Sunninghill), lead member for finance, said £7m of that blackhole is primarily due to the loss of business rates as part of the major redevelopment of Maidenhead town centre.

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He said: “Maybe you would say we shouldn’t have set out about regenerating Maidenhead, and that would be totally irresponsible.

“So, there’s a consequence there and one of the things our finance team would be doing in talking with the government is to explain that particular position

“We are doing exactly the right thing and it’s having a negative impact on us in the short-term.”

With inflation sharply rising, Cllr Geoff Hill (TBFI: Oldfield) was concerned about how the council was going to reach its saving targets.

He said: “It’s my worry that we won’t get there, and we would simply get crushed in the middle without enough revenue.

Royal Borough Observer: Corporate Overview & ScrutinyCorporate Overview & Scrutiny

“Inflation will push virtually everything that we purchase, and we will get squashed by burning up our reserves because you would have no choice but to use the money that we’ve got.”

He was also concerned that the council is relying on ‘the saviour’ of capital receipts from the controversial development of the Maidenhead golf course, which a planning application is yet to come forward.

Head of finance Andrew Vallance said they will be lobbying government to raise council tax passed the gap and social care funding. A savings programme will be formed, and the council may need to dip into its reserves.

Reserves, which are used for emergencies or unseen circumstances, have been historically low in the Royal Borough. However, thanks to an underspend this year, the council has put away nearly £1.7m in its reserves, taking it to a total of £8.7m.

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Mr Vallance said delays in the Maidenhead golf course development won’t significantly impact the council in the short-term but could do in the long-term as it will lead to additional borrowing to pay off its debts.

But another to mitigate this would be for the council to sell some of its assets, the meeting heard.

Mr Vallance also said the council is undertaking more commercial activity, which is outlined as a risk within the report, because due to the lack of government funding, local authorities across the country are having to look at other ways to pump revenue into their budgets.

Nevertheless, he said the council will plug its financial gaps “one way or the other”.

A draft budget will be approved by cabinet in November where it will go out for public consultation before final proposals are made by senior councillors and full council in February 2023.