Friday February 5, 2016
I would say yes. Looking after our most vulnerable children and elderly residents, making sure the bins are collected and maintaining our parks and roads are what we expect our council to deliver, along with many other important services.
That has been increasingly difficult as our funding from central Government is being cut in half. Meanwhile, demand for our services has been spiralling – partly due to our growing and ageing population.
At the same time, we’ve frozen council tax bills for the last six years as we know many of you were feeling the effects of stagnant wages and an ever increasing cost of living.
Coping with these real terms cuts in the money we have to spend on vital services hasn’t been easy, but we’ve worked really hard to minimise the negative impact on you and your family.
We have taken out waste and inefficiency wherever we found it. We are a far leaner organisation than we once were. More services are going online. We are increasingly delivering services with the voluntary sector and other councils.
However, we can only shift a service online or sell a building once. You cannot further reduce a back office support service, which was cut by 40 per cent last year, without affecting the frontline services you receive every day. Our services are working at full capacity.
George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has recognised that we need more money to spend on our services – not least to help us support the growing number of older people who rely on us.
Unfortunately, the only option he has left us is a council tax rise.
That is why we are considering changes that would lead to an overall increase of 45p a week for an average ‘Band D’ household.
I and every other councillor now have this really difficult decision to make. We have to balance how much money we need to provide all the services that local people rely on with how much you and your neighbours can afford to pay in your council tax bills.
The 3.99 per cent tax rise we are considering would bring in about £4million a year, if approved. That £4million is relatively small compared to the £117million funding we’ve lost over the last six years. To fully bridge that loss we would have to more than double your council tax. I would never allow that to happen. But I believe 45p per week will be vital in helping to protect the services you rely on.