Annual report

Last Updated: 17 November 2021

This report describes in brief how the council has performed in financial year 2020-2021. It looks at how the council has shaped and responded to events during the year, the progress we have made implementing our Council Plan, how we have managed our finances and how we have responded to the needs of our customers and communities.

Like communities and councils all over the country, 2020-21 has been one of the most challenging ever for South Lakeland District Council and its residents and businesses. It is a year dominated by the COVID emergency and all that this has meant in our response. For example, co-ordinating the community response, organising business support and grants, managing the outbreak at local level through test and trace, managing the impacts on our visitor economy and National Parks and planning for recovery and rebuilding. We have transformed the way we work with remote working and virtual meetings whilst maintaining performance and delivery of essential services and business as usual as well as tackling climate change, biodiversity loss and the impact of financial inequalities and improving playgrounds.

We are also in the middle of a Local Government review process, initiated by Government, which could result in very different arrangements for local government in South Lakeland, Cumbria and North Lancashire.

Brexit has meant new arrangements and processes for many of our local businesses as well as issues around farm subsidies and rural land management. Many businesses have been adversely affected by COVID, a significant proportion of employees in the District have been furloughed. It is important that affected businesses are supported as lockdown eases.

The need for urgent action on climate change and related issues such as biodiversity has become ever more pressing and local authorities need to be in the vanguard of the response. The past year has also seen increased concerns about exclusion, inequality and social justice.

South Lakeland is a council which relishes a challenge. We have maintained high quality services throughout, we have adopted a Council Plan which sets out an ambitious vision, priorities to tackle our key challenges and a road map to deliver on them. We are helping to lead the response to climate change in Cumbria. We are working through the Local Government review process to create an optimal solution for Local Government based on the requirements for improved services, local support and a credible geography (The Bay), delivering all local government services with South Lakeland and its communities at its heart. We continue to progress our innovative transformation programme. We are simplifying and streamlining our processes every day and our new customer reception and Town Hall in Kendal will open shortly.

With a fit for purpose plan and a transformed organisation South Lakeland District Council has risen to the most extreme of challenges and is able to face the future with confidence.

The councils visions and priorities are set out in our Council Plan.

Key events

  • April 2020: SLDC commences administering lockdown business grants. To date more than 34,000 grants totalling more than £120m has been paid to support businesses in the District
  • May 2020: Introduction of My Account providing rapid access to tailored local information and digital services. To date local residents have set up more than 4500 accounts
  • June 2020: SLDC Carbon reduction target and action plan is adopted
  • July 2020: Natural Flood Management in Town View fields commences
  • August 2020: New footbridge is opened in Cartmel
  • September 2020: Refurbishment of Kendal Town Hall commences
  • October 2020: Poverty emergency is declared
  • November 2020: South Lakeland, Barrow and Lancaster Councils support proposals for a new Unitary Authority around Morecambe Bay
  • December 2020: affordable home to rent in the District since 2015 is completed at Ulverston Town Hall
  • January 2021: Vaccination centres are announced at Westmorland Shopping Centre and GSK sports centre
  • February 2021: South Lakeland Council Plan is adopted
  • March 2021: Environment Agency begins work on Kendal flood defences

Progress on working across boundaries

The council seeks to place South Lakeland at the centre of a Morecambe Bay Economic Region at the cutting edge of delivering sustainable economic growth in the North of England with homes, high value jobs, world class knowledge and exceptional quality of life. 2020 to 2021 has seen major progress in our work across the sub-region. Key areas include:

  • the establishment of a Lancaster and South Cumbria Joint Committee to work together on economic development, climate change, health and inequality across the Morecambe Bay sub-region
  • the development and submission to Government of a Bay Prosperity and Resilience Strategy setting out the ask of Government to support a Growth Deal
  • the development and submission to Government of a proposal for a Morecambe Bay Unitary Council, with the support of all three Morecambe Bay authorities as part of the Government’s invitation to review Local Government in Cumbria
  • securing of funding between SLDC, the Highways Agency, Cumbria County Council and Cumbria LEP to deliver a new roundabout on the A590(T) at Swarthmoor to enable 1000 new homes
  • commissioning of consultants to prepare a Master Plan for the strategic GSK site in Ulverston
  • extensive early engagement and stakeholder consultation on the South Lakeland Local Plan

Housing delivery has been significantly impacted by the COVID with only around 120 dwellings completed in 2021. In its early stages, lockdown restrictions required the complete cessation of construction work and housing market activity. Ensuring safe spacing on sites has also had an impact. However the housing market has remained strong and at the present time there are 15 large housing schemes under construction in the District outside the National Parks totalling 1135 dwellings of which around 400 will be affordable.

Progress on balanced communities

The Council aims to deliver a more balanced South Lakeland which houses a growing working age population and provides the best possible quality of life for all age groups. Progress has included:

  • the completion of 79 affordable homes and the completion of the landmark 500th affordable home to rent as part of the council’s ambitious programme to deliver 1000 new affordable homes to rent
  • the conversion of the former Ulverston Town Hall to deliver 17 affordable homes to rent
  • continuation of a programme of improvements to play areas including the completion of a new play area at North Lonsdale Road, Ulverston
  • commencement of the construction of 104 new extra care homes in Oxenholme
  • the granting of self or custom build status for 16 new homes
  • provision of workspace for local businesses through Mintworks 2 as part of the Town Hall refurbishment

Affordable housing delivery has slowed as a result of the pandemic. However we are confident that delivery will pick up in 2021-2 and at the present time sites currently under construction outside the National Parks will deliver around 399 new affordable homes.

Progress on fairer South Lakeland

The council aims to deliver a District where everyone has access to the the same opportunities, life chances and potential to lead safe, healthy, happy and fulfilled lives. Key areas include:

  • distribution of more than £120 million in Covid business support grants
  • declaration of a poverty emergency
  • reestablishment of the Financial Resilience Partnership to co-ordinate a community based response to poverty and inequality;
  • households assisted with energy efficiency measures through Cold to Cosy scheme
  • 495 households assisted with housing costs through Discretionary Housing Payments
  • development of emergency additional temporary accommodation for homeless families at Grange over Sands
  • effective management of the Covid outbreak keeping Covid cases significantly below national average for most of the pandemic
  • support for 4951 low income households through the Council Tax discount scheme
  • issue of grants to support community and voluntary sector organisations respond to the Pandemic.
  • supporting the provision of disabled toilet facilities in areas of need through the Changing Places scheme
  • support for refugee resettlement

The Covid crisis has given renewed impetus to this priority. South Lakeland is very dependent on the visitor economy and town centres. These have resulted in very high levels of people on furlough, people falling into financial difficulty and small businesses being placed under pressure.

Progress on Carbon Neutral South Lakeland

The council is working to achieve a more beautiful, quieter and cleaner district leading the way to Net Zero with more comfortable, warmer and safer homes, cleaner air and water, more wildlife, more trees and more jobs in a thriving sustainable economy and an environmental quality and quality of life that is recognised as the best in England. Progress includes:

  • the adoption of a target and action plan for the Council to become carbon neutral by 2030 and for the District to become carbon neutral by 2037
  • support for a Cumbria wide target of a carbon neutral Cumbria by 2037 which is now influencing Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Districts and the Lake District National Park authority and many stakeholders across the County
  • the installation of new energy monitoring software
  • the installation of solar panels on council buildings
  • commencement by the Environment Agency of the construction of new flood defences in Kendal
  • support for the replacement of Gooseholme Bridge in Kendal
  • grant support for 10 local climate change projects across the District including peatland restoration, woodland management, cycle training and tree planting
  • supporting the County Council and partners in preparing a local cycling and walking improvement strategy for Kendal

Finances

The council approves the budget and Council tax annually in February for the financial year starting in April. When the budget for 2020/21 was approved in February 2020 the figures did not anticipate costs of Covid-19. Overall it is expected that Covid-19 will cost the council around £1.3m in 2020/21 and just under £4m over 5-years:

Estimated cost of COVID-19 £m
2020/2021 1.26
2021/2022 0.55
2022/2023 1.00
2023/2024 0.81
2024/25 0.20
Total 3.82

This cost includes lost income from business rates, council tax and other income such as car parking fees. Additional budgets for Covid-19 were approved in June 2020 and regular updates on the financial position have been provided during the year. The Council has received £1.4m of general Government grant to assist with its costs and a further £1.4m of grant to partially offset lost income. The cost of Covid-19 for 2020/21, after grants, is being met from the Council’s accumulated reserves for 2020/21. This will reduce amounts available to meet other emergency costs.

In addition, the Council has received over £100m of grants from Government which it has distributed to businesses in the district during 2020/21. A further £28m of business rate discounts have been issued, funded by Government grant. The table below shows the budgets originally approved in February 2020 and the latest budgets for 2020/21 by department:

2020/2021 Budgets
Service Approved gross expenditure Feb 2020, £000 Approved income Feb 2020, £000 Approved net expenditure Feb 2020, £000 2020/2021 latest budgets gross expenditure, £000 2020/2021 latest budgets income, £000 2020/2021 latest budgets net expenditure, £000
Director of Strategy, Innovation and Resources 6.149.3 624.3 5,525.0 6,294.2 -624.3 5,669.9
Operational Lead Customer and Locality Services 1,643.5 1.1 1,642.4 2,269.3 -1.1 2,268.2
Operational Specialist Services 27,553.5 18,109.8 9,443.7 99,842.4 -100,758.8 -916.4
Operational Lead Case Management 2,359.1 802.0 1,557.1 2,911.6 -1,096.7 1,814.9
Operational Lead Delivery and Commercial Services 13,898.5 9,319.7 4,578.8 15,157.9 -8,023.2 7,134.7
Cost of services 51,603.9 -28,856.9 22,747.0 126,475.4 -110,504.1 15,971.3
Financing entries and statutory accounting requirements n/a n/a -10,011.1 n/a n/a 277.4
Net increase/decrease in General Fund balances and reserves n/a n/a 2,154.2 n/a n/a -1,897.7
SLDC budget requirement n/a n/a 14,890.1 n/a n/a 14,351.0
Business rates n/a n/a -5,512.8 n/a n/a -4,973.7
General Government grants n/a n/a -433.0 n/a n/a -433.0
SLDC demand on collection fund n/a n/a 8,944.3 n/a n/a 8,944.3
Grants to Parish Councils n/a n/a 92.0 n/a n/a 92.0
Collection fund surplus/deficit (-/+) n/a n/a 85.1 n/a n/a 85.1
SLDC Council Tax requirement n/a n/a 9,121.4 n/a n/a 9,121.4

The following table shows how service expenditure and income has changed during the year:

Expenditure and income Approved 2020/2021, £000 Latest budgets 2020/2021, £000
Employee costs 13,737.6 14,263.5
Running costs 9,768.6 91,884.8
Total service expenditure 23,506.2 106,148.3
Car parking income 4,609.7 3,457.7
Contributions from other Local Authorities and Public Bodies 16.7 80.8
General income 3,990.6 4,072.4
Government grants 669.1 80,467.1
New homes bonus 338.0 338.0
Lake income 1,492.6 1,492.6
Recycling credits 1,438.1 1,433.1
Total service income 12,554.8 91,341.7
Net Service Budget before Capital Charges 10,951.4 14,806.6
Capital Charges 11,795.6 1,164.7
Net Service Budget after Capital Charges 22,747.0 15,971.3

Budget and financial reports 2020 to 2021