WEARSIDERS are set to see their council tax frozen for another year.
Sunderland’s ruling Labour cabinet has proposed the freeze as part of its budget for 2014/2015.
A final decision on both the budget and the council tax are now put to a full council meeting on Wednesday 5 March, but is very unlikely to be halted by councillors.
Councillor Mel Speding, the council’s Cabinet Secretary, said: “With the proposed freeze the council recognises that household budgets are strained and under pressure.
“The proposed freeze helps ensure residents are paying some of the lowest council tax bills in the country.
“And – as auditors have recognised – we continue to offer value for money plus efficient and effective service delivery.
He added: “The freeze is part of the wider budget planning that has been put to the Cabinet and now goes to the full council.
“However, due to the disproportionate and ideologically driven funding reductions from Central Government, we are having to make many difficult decisions on millions of pounds of savings as we re-design services. These reductions in grant funding are going to have an impact on service delivery.
“Nonetheless, we remain committed to our city and we continue to invest in improving our infrastructure to attract more private sector investment and help generate more wealth and prosperity.”
Council tax helps pay for hundreds of services from helping the elderly and vulnerable, refuse and recycling, and leisure facilities.
Government grants help fund the majority of the council’s budget in addition to income from services such as licensing and planning.
The freeze means Sunderland’s council tax is again likely to be the lowest bill in the Tyne and Wear area.
The majority of households in Sunderland are in tax bands A and B. Of the 123,000 properties in the city, almost 78,000 are classed as Band A and householders would continue to pay £790.64, without the police and fire service precepts.
The tax raises approximately 11 per cent of the total budget and anticipated to raise more than £70m in the next year.
The council has a funding gap of £35m for 2014/2015 and its Revenue Spending Power - made up of council tax, business rates and Government grant funding - has been reduced by more than the national average.
In the last three years, the council has reduced spending by more than £100m with a potential reduction of more than £113m in prospect over the next three budgets.
Additional budget plans put to the Cabinet include ongoing and new investments of more than £81m in the city’s infrastructure of roads, schools and buildings to help support jobs, regeneration and wealth creation.
Two years ago the council announced a five year capital investment programme of more than £100m. This included investing in city centre improvement works, the seafront, a new leisure centre in Washington and significant infrastructure works to support economic development.
Fresh investments of more than £19m are planned for the next 12 months including more than £11m on road and transport schemes. Further announcements on major capital investments at key city sites are being timetabled as the council is working with a new regeneration partner.