Bury Council has increased its share of the council tax bill by 3.5% for the coming financial year, it was agreed by councillors last night (Wednesday 20 Feb).
The budget meeting also endorsed cuts of £10 million in 2013/14, by making savings in line with the options published in the council’s Plan for Change.
Councillor Tony Isherwood, executive member for finance and resources, said: “We have done our very best to protect frontline services, but we are getting to the point when such savage cuts cannot be met from efficiencies.
“The Government is cutting our funding by 5.1% in 2013/14 and by a further 8.9% in 2014/15, cuts which are worse than the average for England, metropolitan councils and Greater Manchester. Since the coalition came to power we have lost £17 million a year of government support and we expect this to rise to £25 million a year by 2017/18. This equates to £130 a year for every man, woman and child in Bury.
“This leaves us having to make extremely difficult and painful decisions. With great reluctance, we have decided that freezing the council tax presents too great a risk. The 3.5% rise in the council’s element of the council tax will generate an extra £1.6 million which will go some way towards addressing the risks in the 2013/14 budget and help to offset a part of the Government’s 2014/15 grant cuts.”
The council agreed to set aside £200,000 to retain part of the ranger service and to retain the township cleansing teams at their current level, decisions made following public consultation.
Councillor Mike Connolly, leader of the council, said: “We take absolute no pleasure in proposing a council tax rise, but without it we would be facing devastating cuts in 2014/15 which would affect the most vital of our services. Even the 3.5% rise for council services is largely accounted for by a huge rise in the waste disposal levy imposed on the council; without that, we could have had almost a council tax freeze.
“This proposal is a tough one to make but it is the right one. Despite the battering that Bury has received from the Government, we have managed to avoid the dramatic service cuts and job losses that other councils are imposing.”
The council has recently launched a Fair Deal for Bury campaign – for details, and to sign up, go to http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=8179
To read the Plan for Change savings requirements, go to http://www.bury.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=6810
- Last night’s budget meeting also agreed that council rents would rise by an average of 4.1 per cent from April, less than the amount suggested by Government guidelines.
Cllr Tony Isherwood said: “Under the Government’s rent policy, our rents would be rising by an average of 5%. But we feel that this would present a real challenge to our tenants, many of whom are going to suffer from welfare reforms which hit the most vulnerable people the hardest. We are therefore proposing an average increase of 4.1%. We would have liked to have gone further, but there is a trade-off between lower rent rises and the level of funds that are available to invest in our housing stock.”
Cllr Gill Campbell, cabinet member for neighbourhoods and regeneration, said: “The housing budget provides more than £7.5 million to carry out major works on our houses and will help us to maintain the Decent Homes Standard that we worked so hard to achieve.”
The agenda for last night’s budget meeting can be read at http://burydem.bury.gov.uk/aksbury/users/public/admin/kab14.pl?operation=SUBMIT&meet=94&cmte=COU&grpid=public&arc=71
Press release issued: 21 February 2013.
Notes to editors:
1) The council tax for each property band for the financial year 2013/14 is:
2) The council approved the following:
* A Revenue Budget of approximately £145.5 million – to cover running costs of essential services. This budget is funded by central government grant, locally retained business rates, and the council tax payer.
* A Capital Programme of approximately £16.4 million – representing investment in the borough’s infrastructure and assets, e.g. highways and housing. These costs will be funded by government grant, proceeds from the sale of surplus assets, and borrowing where a clear business case can be proven.
* A Housing Revenue Account of approximately £30.8 million – in respect of the costs of providing 8,129 council houses. These costs are funded through rents paid by council house tenants.
* The element of the council tax which pays for Bury Council services is set to increase by 3.5% from last year
* Increases in the Police and Fire Service elements of the Council Tax take the overall increase to 3.7%.