Sunderland council tax payers call for more say on how their cash is spent

Sunderland Civic Centre
Sunderland Civic Centre
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Council tax payers in Sunderland are calling for more say on how their cash is spent as they face another 5% rise on rates.

Council chiefs have put forward the proposed 4.99% rise from April this year, subject to further debate and a vote by all councillors.

The rise would mean the vast majority of Sunderland households - those in Band A - paying an extra £43.08 per year, pushing push their rate over the £900 mark, up from £863.21 for 2017/18 to £906.29 for 2018/19.

Many were unhappy with the proposed hike, and 94% of the 755 people who took part in our poll said council tax payers should have a greater say in how money collected was spent.

Council chiefs have blamed the level of the rise on a lack of cash from central Government. Local authorities are permitted to raise council tax by 5.99%, taking into account the "social care precept" they are allowed to charge on top of rates.

Any rises higher than that must be put to the public in a referendum. But the results of our poll show readers have an appetite for more of a say, whatever the level of increase is. And comments on our Facebook page reflect this.

Ian Smith said: "(The rise is) fine with me, but I would like to see a return for my money. Weekly bin collection would be a good place to start."

Ness Hutchinson said: "More council tax (but) the bins do not get emptied half the time, or the streets tidied up - rubbish everywhere."

Theirs were among a number of comments related to the lack of weekly bin collections.

But Steve King said there were other issues people should consider.

He said: "Is everyone in Sunderland obsessed with their bins? It makes up 4.5% of the council's spend. Housing, education and social care is where the money goes."

Garry Johnson had a much longer list of issues than just bin collections - though not all those he lists are funded solely by the council.

He said: "The cuts that have been made such as bin collections, health care, schools , street cleaners, lollipop men, police, fire brigades, youth clubs, public order officers etc, are funded by the council. With these cuts, where are all the savings gone?"

Jennifer Daly said: "Every time council tax goes up another service gets cut... it's disgusting how much we pay to receive nothing back for it."

Christopher Burton said he felt the council had spent too much on its bid for to be UK City of Culture 2021.

Carrie Stokoe said the rise would wipe out the benefit people would get from increases this year.

"Bang goes the little extra we receiving on minimum wage going up in April then," she said. "Receive in one hand, out the other."

However, a number of readers defended the council, with most of those laying the blame at the Government's door.

Lee Diston said: "People complain too much, people voted for the Conservatives but don't like the consequences. The Tories cut funding meaning local councils have to increase payments - it's happening all over, not just Sunderland.

Neil Martin said: "The council tax you pay doesn't cover anywhere near what is needed to run the city. Central government takes up the slack and this has been cut to the bone."

Mel Garraghan-Moore said: "Unfortunately council tax from those who pay it in Sunderland doesn’t cover the cost of the council’s public services.

"It only amounts to about 15% of council budget due to the amount of unemployed people in the city who pay little or no council tax but still use the services it pays for.

"Government funding makes up the other 85% of the budget but this keeps being cut. Hence council tax hikes."