Sunderland’s 5% council tax rise set to be approved at budget meeting today

Sunderland Civic Centre
Sunderland Civic Centre

Sunderland councillors will be asked to approve plans for a five per cent council tax increase today.

A meeting at Sunderland Civic Centre will be asked to rubber stamp the authority’s budget for the next financial year.

Coun Niall Hodson

Coun Niall Hodson

The proposal for a rise was outlined at a cabinet meeting in January but must be ratified by a full council meeting this afternoon.

The figure includes a two per cent adult social care precept suggested by the Government, which is anticipated to raise £1.79million to help support older and vulnerable people in care homes and more than 4,000 people in their own homes.

If approved, 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.

This would the third time council tax has increased in Sunderland since 2010.

Councils can no longer afford to offer front-line services as they once did because of austerity.

Coun Mel Speding

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 £90million of the council’s planned budget of £633million. 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.

Conservative councillors unveiled their response to the budget proposals last month. Now the council’s three Liberal Democrat councillors have called for cuts to councillor’s expenses and allowances to boost frontline spending.

Coun Robert Oliver.

Coun Robert Oliver.

The group says its proposals would save £869,000, the bulk from a reduction of £250,000 to councillors’ Special Responsibility Allowances, and a further £250,000 from holding elections for the entire council every four years, rather than electing one councillor from each ward three years out of four.

Lib Dem leader Coun Niall Hodson said: “The proposed savings will allow us to reinvest money where it is needed.

“It is no wonder that we did not win UK City of Culture last year, when our library had to be closed and transferred to the museum - these services are vital for cultural life in the city. Moreover, we propose to make waste-collection easier for those who find it harder to pay for services. This in turn will help make our city cleaner, by cutting back on rubbish. The residents in the ward I represent have long found rubbish to be a particular problem in their local area.”

Tory group leader Coun Robert Oliver said: “Unlike Sunderland Conservatives, the Liberal Democrat councillors on Wearside are not offering the residents of the city a smaller rise in the council tax: 3% proposed by the Conservative group instead of 5% for both Labour and Liberal Democrat.

Coun Mel Speding

Coun Mel Speding

“The proposal to have elections only once every four years would deny residents the opportunity to regularly express their opinion on their elected members.”

Coun Mel Speding, the council’s Cabinet Secretary, said: “It’s very easy for three Liberal Democrats to come up with back of a fag packet calculations.

“Councils can no longer afford to offer front-line services as they once did because of austerity.

“The council has an independent remuneration panel that annually reviews allowances and Labour believes this process should remain independent and not politically influenced and that the panel is the appropriate body for the opposition to lobby make representations.

“Many large metropolitan areas across our region opt for thirds to give citizens full and proper representation in the democratic process.”