Two years of council tax freezes have come to an end as the bill for 2016/17 will rise by a total of 3.8%.
At tonight’s (Wed 24 Feb) council meeting, members agreed to increase the basic level of council tax by 1.94%, plus a further 2% to meet the rising costs of adult social care under a ‘levy’ announced by the Government. The Police and Fire Services have levied increases of £5 and 1.99% respectively, bringing the overall rise to 3.8%.
Members also agreed to cut the council’s budget by a further £11.6 million, bringing the total amount of cuts to £65 million in the last six years.
However, councillors have also found an extra £500,000 to repair potholes, and an extra £100,000 to maintain gullies and culverts.
Council house tenants will see their rents reduced by 1%, and the enhanced capital programme will run for a third year to ensure that all houses come up to the ‘Bury Standard’.
Rents for sheltered accommodation, extra care schemes and garages will increase by 0.9%, but heating charges in sheltered accommodation are set to reduce by 10%.
Councillor Rishi Shori, cabinet member for finance and housing and deputy council leader, said: “Six years of huge budget cuts have serious implications for our ability to provide the services that residents have got used to.
“We have tried our hardest to protect front-line services and find more efficient ways of working, but this is becoming increasingly difficult. We have to change the way we work, with more being done online and by residents and communities.
“We have now had to make £65 million in cuts in the last six years. No one could have their income cut by so much and carry on in the same way.”
Cllr Shori said that Bury continued to receive a bad deal compared to other authorities.
“It is simply not fair that we only receive £294 of Government funding per head, compared to a national average of £342. Funding at the national level would give us an extra £9 million to deliver the services that Bury residents deserve.
“We’ve frozen the council tax for the past two years, but the Government has now scrapped the ‘freeze’ grant that allowed us to do that.The Government has also changed the way adult social care is funded and ‘allowed’ us to increase the council tax by 2% to help meet the huge and increasing demands for social care. While we have reluctantly done this, it’s simply passing the buck from Whitehall to local tax payers.”
He added: “Despite our financial difficulties, we are determined to continue investing in local priorities, which is why we have found extra money to repair potholes and maintain gullies. We will also continue to regenerate our borough, such as ongoing major schemes in Radcliffe and Prestwich.”
Council Tax – around 86% of the council tax bill is what residents pay for Bury Council services; the remainder is the amount paid for the Police and Fire services.
Budget – around 67% of the council tax is spent in three priority areas: older people, children’s services, and on waste collection/disposal.
Staffing – the council has lost more than 450 jobs in the last six years, mainly in management roles.
Consultation – some 230 people took part in the council’s budget consultation, whether online or at township forum ‘road shows’.
Councillor Mike Connolly, leader of the council, said: “Our core funding from Government has been cut this year by another 10.75%, and there’s worse to come.
“Until fairly recently, the council received 25% of its funding from the Government, around 25% from business rates, and 50% from the council tax. But the Government has now said that, by 2020, its grant will fall to zero – meaning that all our budget will have to come from council tax and business rates.
“On top of that, we will face new Government-imposed burdens such as increases in employers’ National Insurance, the new Living Wage, and a levy on us taking on apprentices.
“When demand for services is increasing, this adds up to a ‘perfect storm’ and we cannot rule out closures and/or a reduced range of services in future years. There is a limit to what the council can afford to do, and we will need to explore alternative ways of delivering services and a greater use of partnership working.”
Press release issued: 24 February 2016.
Note to editors:
- Council Tax for 2016/17 is as follows:
Band A - £1,047.52
Band B - £1,222.10
Band C - £1,396.69
Band D - £1,571.29
Band E - £1,920.47
Band F - £2,269.64
Band G - £2,618.81
Band H - £3,142.58
- The cuts of £11.6 million for 2016/17 are as follows:
Alternative Service Delivery Models - £1.990 million.
Grant Optimisation - £1.450 million.
Grants to the Voluntary Sector - £0.150 million.
Income Generation - £1.600 million.
Better Use of Technology - £0.200 million..
Better Use of Buildings and Assets - £0.150 million.
Procurement Savings - £1.788 million.
Service Redesign - £2.471 million.
Staff Restructuring - £1.780 million.