Sunderland families face 4% council tax rise

Sunderland Civic Centre

Sunderland Civic Centre

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Sunderland City Council has proposed a 4% council tax rise for 2016/17.


The proposal was announced at the monthly cabinet meeting this afternoon, and is expected to be ratified by the full council on March 2.

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Subject to final decisions it will be the first time the tax has increased in Sunderland since 2010 and includes a 2% levy to fund adult social care.


The increase will represent a 61p a week jump for the majority of the city’s households, with more than 77,000 of the city’s 124,000 properties classed as Band A. They will now be paying £822.19 in 2016/17.

Despite the increase, indications are that Sunderland's council tax will again be the lowest in the Tyne and Wear area.


Council tax revenue accounts for around 12 per cent of the council’s total budget and is expected to raise more than £83.3million in the next year.

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The council says the adult social care levy is anticipated to raise £1.6million and will be used to help support older and vulnerable people in care homes, and more than 4,000 people who receive care in their own homes.


The council has lost £207million from its budget as a result of Government funding cuts and spending pressures in the last six years.


It is faced with making further cuts of potentially £115million by 2020. For 2016/2017, it must reduce its spending by more than £46million.


Cabinet secretary Mel Speding said: “The city council has done its best to protect residents from the impact of the cuts since 2010.


“However, because of the sustained government cuts and spending we now have to make very difficult decisions and raising council tax is one of those. This year alone we are facing cuts of £46million.


“If we don’t raise council tax we will need to cut services even more than the proposals we have already set out.


“That would mean more damaging cuts to those most vulnerable in our communities.


“We have therefore taken the difficult decision to propose a council tax raise to help protect services from further cuts.”


The final level of council tax is dependent on the level of precept to be set by the police and crime commissioner and the fire and rescue authority.


Coun John Kelly, cabinet member for public health, wellness and culture, said: “We’ve been to hell and back of they the last few months and it is already having an impact on services.


“It is an all-out attack on the people of Sunderland from the government, when some of the Conservative councils down south are getting up to £20million.


“I am in total admiration of the staff we have working here in Sunderland, both the executive team and on the front line. They are in a position where they don’t know whether they will have a job in six months’ time.


“The government should hang their heads in shame and the local Conservative group should hang they heads in shame too.
“We’ve got to fight as hard as we can but the ship is sinking.”


Coun Graeme Miller, cabinet member for health, housing and adult services, said: “It’s a disgraceful political position. I thought I’d never see the day when we have this blatant bribery of voters down south. People in this city are bearing the brunt of the pain for the lack of support.”

Conservative opposition leader Peter wood said he was disappointed that the ruling Labour cabinet voted on an increase.

Coun Wood said: “The important thing is that they proposed a 2% increase for social care, but I’m disappointed that they thought that a further increase beyond that is necessary.

“I think we should be thankful that the law requires a referendum for any increase beyond that proposed, because without that law I think that the council would propose another increase in council tax.

“Conservative members would have been preparing proposals that would be seeking to minimise any increase in council tax.”

News of the proposed rise comes after the council already ended free fortnightly garden waste composting collections and brought in a £25 annual charge in a bid to help reduce the £800,000 it costs to run.

What council tax is for

The tax helps pay for hundreds of services from helping the elderly and vulnerable, to refuse and recycling services.

The majority of households in Sunderland are in tax bands A and B. Of the city's 124,000 properties, more than 77,000 are classed as Band A and these householders would pay £822.19 per annum, without the police and fire service precepts.

Council Tax raises approximately 12 per cent of the council's total budget and is anticipated to raise more than £83.3m in the next year.

Government grants help fund the majority of the council's budget in addition to income from services such as licensing and planning. For 2015-2016 the council's planned spending on public services for Sunderland's 276,680 residents was £663million.

Capital spending plans for next year backed by the Cabinet include on-going and new capital investments of more than £122m. These investments are in the city's infrastructure of roads, schools and buildings to help support jobs, regeneration and wealth creation. A further £130m is planned to be spent in the subsequent three years.

The commitments and planned investment from the council includes capital projects such as the Railway Station, two-way traffic in North Bridge, plus further highways and more seafront improvements in coming years as well as seeing the completion of the New Wear Crossing.

And, since 2010 the council has invested more than £430m in economic regeneration, education and skills, and health and wellbeing. Including significant city centre works, the New Wear Crossing between Castletown and Pallion, and a new leisure centre in Washington.

Last month, when outlining the revenue budget Coun Speding warned people in Sunderland they would notice further changes to council services as they are reviewed, re-modelled, re-designed, or stopped.

He said: "Despite protecting people from the worst of the spending cuts over the last six years, it is inevitable that people are going to feel and notice changes to the services the council provides because of the cuts the council needs to make.

"While we've been consulting with the public on what they also see as priorities, there is no getting away from tougher and harder decisions because of the sustained reductions in Government funding."

Because of Government spending cuts and spending pressures, the council has been changing the way services are delivered. Recent examples include changes to adult care services through the creation of a new company Sunderland Care and Support, changes to library services, and a joint venture Everyone Active for leisure and sport facilities.

The council has cut £207million from its budget as a result of Government funding cuts and spending pressures in the last six years. The council is faced with the need to make further cuts of potentially £115million by 2020. For 2016/2017, the council must reduce its spending by more than £46million.

The council has already announced that for 2016/2017 it is ending its free fortnightly garden waste composting collections and introducing a £25 annual charge. This is to help reduce the £800,000 it costs to run.