Shropshire's leaders wait for detail of Chancellor's council tax plans

The county's council leaders will have a close eye on today's budget announcements with expectations that the chancellor will lift the cap on council tax increases.

Council leaders Shaun Davies and Lezley Picton are awaiting the detail of the chancellor's council tax changes
Council leaders Shaun Davies and Lezley Picton are awaiting the detail of the chancellor's council tax changes

Ahead of Chancellor Jeremy Hunt's Autumn Statement there has been speculation he will give councils the ability to increase council tax by a maximum of 4.99 per cent – including a one per cent levy for adult social care.

Currently councils can only raise council tax by 2.99 per cent – any higher and they must hold a referendum.

They are also permitted to add an optional one per cent levy on top to go exclusively towards adult social care costs.

Telford & Wrekin Council's Labour leader, Councillor Shaun Davies, said his authority would be sticking to its pledge not to raise council tax this year, or next year.

Councillor Lezley Picton, Conservative leader of Shropshire Council, said the authority is under significant financial pressure, and that her cabinet and the group would consider the options put forward in the Autumn Statement.

She said: "It will be discussed. People know the situation we are in financially – inflation is not just impacting on our residents, it is impacting on the council too."

Councillor Picton said that the authority's quarter one financial results showed a deficit of £9m, and added that council tax rises would not solve the financial problems faced by councils across the country.

She said that a one per cent increase in council tax raises around £1.8m for the council. She said there was concern that the Government may decrease the amount of funding it gives to councils, while increasing how much it can raise through council tax.

She said: "What we need to hear is they are going to raise the council tax level and our grant funding will remain the same.

"Raising council tax is the last thing we want to do but the demand on social care is continuing to rise. It is not just the number of people requiring care, but it is the companies that provide the care are struggling too."

Councillor Picton said that whatever the Chancellor announces, the council will have to consider whether it can maintain all its services as they are.

She said: "It is the last thing we want to do, it is not in our nature to put tax up."

She added: "Even if we put it up to the maximum we are still going to have to look at what services we do."

Councillor Davies said the authority's pledge stood, but the situation would mean "tough decisions for the council".

He said: "We have made a pledge not to raise council tax despite the fact the government are yet again cutting funding for local councils and are expecting council tax payers to pay more."

He added "We need to look at the detail in terms of the adult social care precept, that was something we increased last year because the Government told us to and assumed we would.

"We need to understand from the Government what those rules are going to be, but we are underfunded as a council – we do not charge for car parking like many councils do, we have a population undercount because we are growing so quickly the Government is always two or three years behind, so it is really difficult for councils, but we understand how difficult it is for our residents."

He added: "A pledge is a pledge, we said we would freeze council tax this year and next and that pledge stands.

"As a council we feel it is important during a cost of living crisis that we do not pass on costs to our residents."

Councillor Davies said he also urged parish councils, the police and crime commissioner, and the fire service not to increase their element of the council tax bill either.

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