Sunderland residents could face 3.99% Council Tax rise to help city cope with ageing population

Sunderland residents could face a 3.99% Council Tax rise to help the city cope with an ageing population.

Monday, 7th October 2019, 5:29 pm
Updated Monday, 7th October 2019, 5:36 pm
Sunderland is predicted to have an ageing population in the coming years

The council's Cabinet will consider its Budget Planning Framework for the 2020/21 financial year when it meets on Tuesday, October 15.

The authority faces a potential funding gap of £24.35m over the following three years as well as mounting pressures in both adult and children's social care.

A budget planning report says that to help meet rising adult social care costs, the Government has proposed a two per cent “social care levy” to be charged on the Council Tax.

This could be alongside a two per cent increase to maintain other services, such as household waste collections, meaning a possible total increase of 3.99 per cent for next year's Council Tax bills.

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Projected figures reveal that the number of older people aged 65 years and over in Sunderland could rise from around 54,500 in 2019 to 70,200 by 2035 - an increase of 29 per cent.

And the number of people aged 85 years and over is predicted to rise from around 6,100 in 2019 to 10,000 in 2035 - a 64 per cent increase.

The council says it currently spends £22 out of every £100 on adult social care. For the 2019/2020 financial year it expects to spend £142million on adult social care, forming the largest part of its £651million budget.

The report also says the council faces continued financial pressures in children's services despite the number of looked after youngsters falling. This is because placements for complex and younger children are rising.

Coun Paul Stewart, Cabinet Secretary, said: "While any additional funding is welcomed, there is mounting pressure in Sunderland and across the country about the delivery of adult and children’s social care services.

"The current Government proposals only give an indication of funding for one year, which makes our financial planning extremely difficult.

"Sunderland has growing pressures in both the NHS and in adult social care as the number of older people needing care is rising. In the absence of the Government addressing this crisis, the council continues to meet these demands and costs for care services.

"It would be remiss of me if I did not remind residents that more than £315m has been cut from city budgets in the last nine years by the Conservative and Lib-Dem coalition Governments. Plus, the Government has increased the share that residents must pay for local services. This makes for more difficult decisions as we care for the elderly and vulnerable and keep other services running.

"Once again, while our budget will protect our services as much as possible, we have to look at how we continue to fund and meet this growing demand for all types of social care."

This year, Council Tax raised £15 towards every £100 of council spending.

Any increase would be in line with Government regulations and its planning assumptions.

The final figure is due to be decided at the council's budget meeting in March. It is subject to further consultation and confirmation of Sunderland’s share of additional funding proposed by Government.

In addition, the budget framework proposals also include an extra £400,000 towards more housing enforcement and monitoring because of the rise in the number of private rented properties. The council says one-in-four properties in Sunderland is now privately rented.

An extra £400,000 is proposed towards environmental and street scene works with £1m to be invested into plans to deliver the council’s carbon reduction commitments.

The report also says that, since taking full ownership of Siglion, the council can expect to receive extra dividend income of £500,000 per year. £750,000 additional income from regeneration investments is also forecast.