A £5 rise in council tax has been agreed as part of budget plans for the South Hams that include cash to help build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

At last Thursday’s South Hams District Council full council meeting, councillors unanimously voted for the proposed budget that put money aside for both services and key issues.

As part of the budget, councillors agreed to a small increase in council tax of £5 per year, meaning a Band D property would pay £175.42 this year to the district council for all of its services.

A further commitment of £200,000 has been put towards the council’s climate change and biodiversity goal to be carbon-free by 2030 and to work with the community to make the district net-zero by 2050, at the latest.

A further £500,000 will support the council’s recovery and renewal plans to help the community ‘build back better’ from the wide ranging impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council will also be lending their backing to local community and voluntary organisations through £10,000 of funding for the Community Volunteer Service (CVS) in recognition of the important work they carry out.

Further allocated funding has been made available for the creation of four new seasonal posts within the localities team, for the busy spring and summer tourism season.

Their community role includes ensuring the local area is kept environmentally clean and safe, litter, dog bins are emptied, and toilet blocks are hygienic, while also helping to keep both residents, and visitors, protected within Covid restrictions, especially at popular tourist destinations.

Cllr Judy Pearce, leader of South Hams District Council, said: “It’s been a difficult year for councils, along with other service industries, but we have managed to hold firm and continue to deliver our services throughout.

“We are increasing council tax by £5 per year, which is only 10p per week, per household, but this small increase will make a really big difference in our ability to provide essential services and projects.

“Local government finances are increasingly stretched and there is a great deal of financial uncertainty for district councils from 2021 onwards and the next few years will continue to be challenging.

“As part of our revenue budget proposals, we are also allocating £500,000 for funding the recovery and renewal plan, together with £200,000 towards climate change and biodiversity measures to ensure we’re moving forward in our commitment to being carbon net-zero. Both of these amounts are one-off amounts of money to be taken from the council’s earmarked reserves and new homes bonus funding.

“Strong financial management over many years and the continual drive for efficiency has enabled the council to accommodate service pressures while still maintaining a low level of council tax.

“Projects such as helping the CVS continue to support local groups and charities. Providing extra locality officers during peak times, to ensure that our residents and visitors enjoy the South Hams safely and to help with community engagement, along with covid and environmental measures.”

The budget also see £2.38m set aside for a capital works programme for a range of projects, which includes private sector renewals for eligible residents’ homes, including disabled facility grants, while a  previously agreed annual contribution, towards a waste fleet replacement programme, along with provision of car parking adjacent to the Dartmouth Health and Wellbeing Hub, is included within this fund.

In March, the council is also looking forward to the roll out, area by area, of the new and improved waste and recycling service, aimed at increasing the amount of materials the district recycles.

In the new service, glass and plastics will be collected from the kerbside and will do much to reduce the district’s carbon footprint.