Sunderland Council bosses approves 3.99% council tax rise plans

Council bosses in Sunderland have given the green light to plans to raise council tax by almost 4%.

Thursday, 14th February 2019, 11:29 am
Updated Thursday, 14th February 2019, 11:32 am

An increase of 3.99% is being sought by Sunderland City Council, a proposal first outlined in November last year in the authority’s budget planning.

The rise has now beenformalised by cabinet ahead of a final decision next month.

The  changes would see an increase of around 70p a week – or £36.16 a year – for the majority of households in Sunderland who are in a Band A property.

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For Band D properties, tax will rise by £1.04 per week with residents set to pay an extra £54.25 per year.

One per cent of the increase is also linked to the adult social care precept which helps to fund services to nearly 3,800 Sunderland adults with disabilities or illnesses.

Cabinet secretary, Coun Paul Stewart stressed that the rise was needed as councils continue to have their budgets squeezed.

In Sunderland’s case, the authority is facing a budget gap of more than £54million up to 2021/22 with a need to cut £25million in 2019/20 alone.

He added: “This council’s ability therefore to deliver even on a statutory basis for Sunderland services for the most vulnerable in our communities is going to be severely tested and challenged in years ahead.”

At the meeting, council bosses blamed government austerity and funding cuts for difficulties balancing the books.

Cabinet member for communities and culture, John Kelly, said: “It’s another little con by the Conservatives who take away funding and come back and say ‘if you want you can raise that funding by charging your public directly.

“What they have done is taken away the subsidy we used to get and directly placed it on the people of Sunderland.”

Deputy council leader, Coun Michael Mordey, said austerity had “shifted the burden from central government to the local council tax payer.”

He added: “I think it’s an absolute disgrace that areas such as Sunderland, which have such a low council tax base, have been unfairly funded.

“The residents of Sunderland should be made aware that, if this government gets their way, that burden will be even greater.”

Council leader, Coun Graeme Miller added: “All we can do as local authority councillors is get that balanced budget and do what we can to ensure that services are protected as much as possible.

“As my colleagues have said it’s the devil if you do and it’s the devil if you don’t. We have to raise council tax to protect essential services, statutory services and the things people expect us to deliver.”

The comments came as the council formalised its revenue and capital budgets for next year.

This includes a decision to withdraw £1.250m in ‘one-off’ reserves to support budget pressures in 2019/20.

Council tax for 2019/2020 is due to raise 15 pence in every pound of the council’s income as the majority of its spending is grants from central government.

The 3.99% increase is also expected to raise £99.6million towards a budget of £651.4million for 2019/20.

A final decision on council tax increases and capital/revenue budgets will be made at full council on Wednesday, March 6.

Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service