Cost of Living Crisis: Sunderland braced for council tax rise next year, but city chiefs set to spare households pain of the maximum increase allowed by the government

Bill payers in Sunderland are set to see council tax rise by at least 3% next year as city chiefs also target spending cuts to try and balance accounts hit by the Cost of Living Crisis.

But while the enlarged payment may increase the strain on households, it is also expected to be lower than throughout much of the UK, with Wearside’s spending chiefs set to stop short of the maximum hike permitted by the Government.

It is hoped savings worth more than £11 million will be possible through a range of measures, including the “deletion” of several vacant job roles, higher charges for use of council buildings and reducing the number of editions of ‘Your Sunderland’ the local authority produces every year.

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At the same time, new investments totalling almost £42 million, including £8 million for repairing potholes, are also being planned up to 2027.

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"Our key aims continue to be protecting core services,” said Sunderland City Council’s Cabinet Secretary, Cllr Paul Stewart.

"Yet, because of questions and uncertainty over Government funding, plus inflationary and demand pressures from the cost of living crisis, we must look at changes and adjustments.

"Budget setting is always about balancing difficult decisions.

"This next budget is going to be very challenging and our planning for it is looking to provide extra resources to meet social care cost pressures and general inflation.

"Residents are experiencing rising costs in their day-to-day household expenses and it is the same for the council as service costs continue to rise and we see more demand, especially for adult and children's social care."

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According to the city council, current budget planning has “assumed” an annual total increase of 1.99% to core council tax, with a further 1% added as an “adult social care precept”.

This is expected to be put to the city council for the final seal of approval in February and if given the green light would increase payments destined for the local authority’s coffers by 2.99% – before further ‘precepts’ for the likes of the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC); Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Authority; and Hetton Town Council, where applicable, are factored in.

Under the latest government guidelines, local spending bosses have the option of raising council tax by up to 5% – made up of a core council tax rise of 2.99% and boosted adult social care precept worth 2% – without the need to put the increased household charges to a referendum.

Work on finance plans is also complicated by the local government finance settlement, which is not due to be handed down by Westminster until later in December.

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As well as day-to-day spending, proposals for major investments in city services up to 2027 are also being lined up, including:

*£16 million for new vans, bin wagons, grass cutters and other equipment

*£3 million for the reconstruction of Nobles Quay

*£1.3 million for improvements at the Port of Sunderland, including works at Corporation Quay

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*£8 million for road maintenance, including pothole, footpaths and traffic signals repairs

*£5 million for bridge maintenance

Public consultation on the proposals is set to start later this month, following approval from the council’s ruling cabinet, which is due to meet on Thursday (December 1).