September 24th, 2016

Hard-hitting New Year message is council tax will rise

Hard-hitting New Year message is council tax will rise Hard-hitting New Year message is council tax will rise
Updated: 10:18 am, May 07, 2015

RESIDENTS have been warned to prepare for a rise in council tax as local authority bosses grapple with the latest round of government cuts.

The government has again offered local authorities money in their 2015/16 settlements to freeze council tax bills but both Redditch Borough Council and Worcestershire County Council are set to reject the offer following further falls in their budgets and opt for a 1.9 per cent rise.

The borough council will see its overall funding for 2015/16 fall by more than £500,000 to £10.249million, a drop of five per cent leaving the authority with £15.14 less to spend per household. It is the biggest fall in spending power of any council in Worcestershire.

Its Revenue Support Grant – given by the government to fund the running of day to day services – is falling by more than 18 per cent to £3.580million, meaning since 2010 the council has seen its RSG slashed by about 41 per cent.

Worcestershire County Council will see its RSG cut by over £17million making it the largest annual reduction since 2010. Overall government figures show its total budget will increase by £3.6million to almost £387million but that includes a dedicated public health grant of over £26million and over £33.5million for the Better Care Fund, used to join up health and social care but it is not new money just cash recycled from other budgets.

County council leader Adrian Hardman said although the announcement was broadly in line with their expectations with £2.2million to find to balance the books and an overspend in their looked after children budget of about £4million due to increasing demand, freezing council tax was not an option.

“It’s a hard new year’s message but council tax from this council will be rising.” he said.

“I don’t think the government quite understand the scale of the challenge this will become to us but I don’t think it would be different under any other government.”

The £940,000 government grant for Local Welfare Assistance schemes, which supports people under threat of homelessness, victims of domestic abuse and those struggling to eat or afford household essentials, has been cut but ministers say the money is included in the overall grant, although no additional funding has been provided.

Coun Hardman said they were keen to continue to provide some sort of scheme but would have to talk to district council leaders to understand at what level and where the money was coming from.

Borough council leader Bill Hartnett said the budget plan assumed council tax would rise but no decision would be made until February.

“It is the third year running we have received less than we expected. There’s an argument we are the council most in need in the county for funding and we have been shabbily treated again in my opinion.”