Sunderland residents hit by proposed 5% council tax hike in coming budget

Sunderland residents will be hit by a proposed 5% council tax hike as part of next year's budget

Wednesday, 10th January 2018, 2:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 11th January 2018, 11:25 am
Sunderland Civic Centre.

The proposal, part of Sunderland City Council's budget for 2018/2019, will mean the majority of households, who are in a Band A property, will see an increase of 83p a week. For a Band D property it is £1.24p a week.

The propsoal was outlined at the council's cabinet meeting today.

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The rise must be approved by councillors at a full meeting of Sunderland City Council on March 7, but is unlikely to be voted down.The figure includes a two per cent adult social care precept that has been suggested by the Government.

The social care precept is anticipated to raise £1.79million 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.

Readers react to proposed council tax rise for Sunderland - have your say hereCabinet Secretary Mel Speding said: "It is very disappointing that there is no additional money from the Government to address the pressures facing councils in relation to adult and children’s social care. "While the Government have acknowledged that there are pressures being faced by councils, they have simply responded by increasing the general council tax referendum limit to be in line with inflation. "When taken together with the social care levy introduced last year, this means councils can increase council tax by up to 5.99 per cent in 2018/2019. "Once again the Government has simply passed the burden from central government to the local council tax payer. And of course, this approach disadvantages councils such as ours, with a low council tax base, as we cannot raise as much through council tax as other more affluent councils. "We recognise that council tax payers within the city are struggling, and at the moment there is no intention to move from our existing plans for the level of council tax in 2018/2019. "Ultimately the council's Revenue Support grant is being cut by more than 19 per cent or almost £9million. While that is as anticipated in our planning, it is a significant cut in funding when also having to address major pressures in adult and children's social care. "There is significant uncertainty over the recently announced move to 75 per cent retained business rates and the funding available for Sunderland from 2020. The impact of the Fair Funding review which the government is undertaking will be critical to the future sustainability of our council's services in Sunderland. "Residents have told us about their concerns in relation to street scene and the need to make the city greener and cleaner, and therefore the report includes proposals for some reinvestment in place based services. "There remain a number of outstanding uncertainties around the financial position which are yet to be confirmed. Therefore, final budget proposals will be considered at our February Cabinet meeting."The final decisions on both the budget and council tax are at the full council meeting on Wednesday, March 7. Subject to that meeting, this would the third time council tax has increased in Sunderland since 2010. The tax helps pay for hundreds of services from helping the elderly and vulnerable, to refuse and recycling services. A 4.99 per cent (five per cent) increase was agreed last year. Last year council tax raised approximately 14 per cent or £90m of the council's planned budget of £633m. The vast majority of council spending is grants from Central Government grants. Since 2010, the council has seen its spending power reduced by a third under the Government austerity programme with £290m taken out of its budgets. Budget proposals at the Cabinet meeting included: * An extra £1.5m, alongside the £500,000 invested last year, for supporting environmental services such as street cleaning, and prosecuting litter bugs and fly-tippers; * £4m extra in children's social care and an extra £2.7m in adult social care are also being considered; * A one-off investment of £2m to support this year's Tall Ships Event in July. At December's Cabinet meeting, proposals for an additional £60m of investment of one-off capital spending such as on highways, plant and equipment, school buildings and other infrastructure, were agreed as budget proposals.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat councillor and group leader Niall Hodson said: "Sadly this increase in council tax is going hit families across Wearside extremely hard. Many people struggle to make ends meet as it is and simply won't be able to pay any extra to the Council.

"This increase is needed in a large part due to the failures of the Council's Labour leadership. The authority is having to shell out millions of pounds on temporary workers and crisis management in its failing children's services department which means there isn't enough money for other services.

"But what is really rubbing salt in the wound is that ruling Labour councillors refuse to cut their own allowances, expenses and perks but are happy to cut city services instead."

Sunderland Conservative spokesman, Coun Robert Oliver, said: "Sunderland Conservatives oppose the 4.99% council tax rise which is unnecessary and a direct result of the Labour Council losing control of Children's Services at an enormous cost.

"The pressure to turn round this department-which is rated as inadequate-is costing the local taxpayer dear with millions of pounds having to be invested when money is tight.

"The Labour council has also added to the council tax bill by deciding to bail out litter collection when a private firm or a council enforcement company would actually bring in revenue.

"Under Labour leadership the council has been too slow to increase its revenue, unlike in Newcastle where the council has generated income through enforcement and a more business-like approach.

"All councils are facing less funding because of the record debt left by the last Labour government but the local Labour Party can't complain when it is wasting money itself."