Council tax to rise for Sunderland residents as 2019/20 budget approved

Council tax in Sunderland is set to rise again as city leaders approved their final budget for 2019/20.

Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 8:46 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th March 2019, 9:02 pm

Tonight, (March 6) Sunderland City Council’s Labour group rubber stamped spending plans worth about £650million.

This includes a 3.99% council tax hike and proposals to invest more than £100million in the city centre.

For the majority of households in Sunderland who are in a ‘Band A’ property, the council tax rise will equate to an extra 70p a week, or £36.16 a year

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For a Band D property, households would see  £1.04 per week or £54.25 added to their annual bill.

The planned rise is made up of a 2.99% increase to core council tax and a further 1% adult social care levy – helping to fund services for Sunderland adults with disabilities or illnesses.

Council bosses have previously blamed government austerity and funding cuts on difficulties around balancing the books.

And since 2010, the local authority has seen a £293million reduction in funding.

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller stated leaders have had to make “difficult decisions” around the budget due to the pressures of nine years of government austerity.

Over the next three years, the council is facing a funding gap of up to £54million, with £25million of savings needed in 2019/20 alone.

He added: “If we don’t raise council tax now, we will have to cut services even more which will only impact on the most vulnerable people in our community.”

The budget follows several rounds of consultation which saw controversial proposals to charge for public toliets dropped.

Revenue plans for next year include an extra £300k towards ‘deep cleaning’ the city centre, £500k towards city events and a extra £100k for each of the city’s five area committees.

Around £2.76million will also be allocated in the Social Care Support Grant to support pressures in adult and childrens’ services.

Capital spending plans also aim to invest millions of pounds into the city centre with a range of proposals.

This includes £41million over four years for a new ‘Civic Centre and Public Sector Hub’ at the former Vaux Brewery site.

Other schemes include £61million for the council’s flagship International Advanced Manufacturing Plant (IAMP), £4.9m for a new Willow Fields Primary School and £15million for roads and bridge maintenance.

Proposed amendments to spending plans submitted by opposition groups were voted down by the Labour majority.

These included Conservative suggestions, including holding the Sunderland Airshow on alternate years, cutting allowances for councillors and increasing income from dog fouling and littering fines, which they said would save £2.02million.

The Liberal Democrats and Others group also proposed a raft of measures aiming to save around £765,000.

These included replacing the mayor and deputy mayor with an unpaid elected chairperson and deputy, changes to elections and reviewing and reducing councillor allowances.

They said the savings could be used to fund disabled student transport, freeze brown bin charges and introduce a ‘a self-financing dog warden service’.

Following debate, the budget proposed by the ruling Labour group was passed with 44  in favour, 11 against and 0 abstentions.

The decision on council tax follows a 5% rise last year and is expected to raise £99.6million for the authority in 2019/20.

Sunderland City Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller.

Sunderland City Council full council on March 6, 2019.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service