Chancellor George Osborne is passing on the burden to raise council tax to local authorities if they want to protect adult social care services.
In his Budget, Mr Osborne admitted that, after years of cuts and with growing numbers of older people needing care, many local authorities could not cover the cost of adult social care services from existing budgets. Such services include care for elderly residents in their own home and support for adults with disabilities or mental health needs.
But instead of providing Government support, the Chancellor has left councils to shoulder the burden by providing the option of raising council tax by an additional 2 per cent.
Leader of Brent Council, Councillor Muhammed Butt said: "The indicators are that councils across the political board - Conservative and Labour - will be raising council tax to protect the most vulnerable.
"We in Brent have worked hard to keep council tax frozen for the last six years. We know how hard our residents have to work to pay all their bills.
"But it looks like we agree with the Chancellor that the services for some of our most vulnerable are now at breaking point. It is a shame that, instead of restoring some of the support the Government has withdrawn, he is hitting our residents again by saying the only way out is through a council tax rise."
Following a six-year freeze, and in line with Government expectations, Cabinet papers reveal today (Friday 29 January) that the council's share for the bill could rise by 3.99 per cent while the Olympic levy has fallen, meaning overall an average 'Band D' household would pay an extra 45p per week.
The change is being proposed among a number of cost-saving options as the council wrestles with having to find savings of more than £60million by 2019 due to central Government cuts. Since 2010, the council has delivered savings of £117million as the Government slashes its funding to the authority in half.
The council estimates the move could bring in an extra £4million a year to help bridge part of the gap left by the Government's relentless squeeze on local government spending.
The proposal was a difficult choice which, if approved, would allow the council to protect more services than it would otherwise be able to.
"A combination of dramatic reductions in Government funding over several years and increasing demand for our services, such as adult social care, leaves us between a rock and a hard place," says Cllr Butt.
"These are very tough times and we will continue to take a business-like approach in planning our finances and rigorously explore the most cost effective ways to deliver services to our residents. The bleak financial outlook will inevitably lead to some difficult choices but our aim throughout this process has been to maximise efficiency savings wherever possible. However, the council is so much leaner and efficient than before and we can only shift services online, or sell a building, or merge support services once.
"In addition, unlike previous years, the Government is no longer providing a grant to freeze council tax.
"The vast majority of the savings proposals are either increased efficiency measures, service innovations or a more enterprising approach to income generation, but this is no longer enough if we want to protect the services that residents rely on.
"We're still listening carefully to what local people are saying so if you haven't responded to the consultation yet I would encourage you to do so as soon as possible. Whatever is decided, we will continue to protect the council tax support scheme for those residents on modest incomes to ensure that those less able to pay council tax continue to be supported."
Whatever the Cabinet recommends, following its meeting on Monday 8 February, will be considered by the Full Council meeting later in the month, as setting the budget and the council tax rates is the job of all elected councillors.
Have your say at www.brent.gov.uk/budgetconsultation2016 or visit one of the remaining consultation meetings next week on:
- Monday 1 February, 7-10pm, at The Library at Willesden Green, 95 High Road
- Tuesday 2 February, 7-10pm, The Roundwood Youth Centre, Longstone Avenue, Harlesden
- Wednesday 3 February, 7-10pm, Main Hall, Kingsbury High School, Princes Avenue, Kingsbury.