WILTSHIRE households could see more than the planned 2.9 council tax rise next year, because a new budget has to be set for 2020/21.

Wiltshire Council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday heard plans for the next financial year outlined by council bosses. The authority is now re-planning its budget for 2021/22 given the ‘significant impact’ of Covid-19.

The report, introduced by Cllr Pauline Church, cabinet member for finance and procurement, put forward the timescales and key dates to set a balanced budget.

She said: “While the setting of any budget is a challenge, the setting of the budget for the financial year 2021/22 presents a unique set of circumstances and challenges.

“Whilst the council is used to planning financially with a degree of uncertainty the impact of Covid-19 will continue to have a significant impact on the core funding resources.”

These resources include the income collected through council tax and business rates, as well as the sales, fees and charges from things like car parking and leisure centres.

Cllr Church said the budget would be a hybrid between a normal budget and a forward look at resources the authority will need for Covid recovery.

This means that the council will completely overhaul the spending assumptions previously made for 2021/22.

Previous calculations showed that the council needed to make savings of £26m next year, and that there would be an increase in council tax of 2.99 per cent.

However, the cabinet report notes that these ‘will need to be reviewed and refined’ to fit the changing circumstances the county is in.

Key dates for the budget include October 31, where the base rates for council tax will be set.

The budget will be continually refined and processed over the next five months before the final budget proposals are set out at the cabinet meeting on February 2, 2021 before being presented to the full council on February 23.

But Cllr Church added that the council did not feel it would be the right time to begin building up the general reserves.

She said: “The level of general fund and earmarked reserves held by the council has highlighted the fragility the council faces in operating and being able to deal with financial shocks.

“Whilst Covid-19 was a financial shock beyond any expectation, the council was faced with making potentially short term decisions to right size the finances sooner than would otherwise would have been the case with larger reserves.”

Instead the council will look at what it has in reserves, why they are held and what the cash is being saved for. A comprehensive spending review by the government is expected in the autumn, but local government funding is not due to be announced until December.