Shropshire Star

Telford & Wrekin Council rubber stamps 4.99 per cent council tax rise

Telford & Wrekin Council has rubber stamped a council tax rise to support the rising cost of adult and children social care.

Telford & Wrekin Council has increase its council tax precept by 4.99 per cent for the next financial year

The local authority has increase its council tax precept by 4.99 per cent for the next financial year.

The police and fire authorities along with parish and town councils have also increased their precepts, resulting in the actually council tax rise being 5.26 per cent – depending on town and parish authority area.

As a result, an average band D property will pay £2,037.48 in council tax over the next financial year. The average total bill for a band A property is £1,358.32 and £1,584.70 for a band B property.

Councillor Natan England, the council's cabinet member for finance, said that only getting a one-year financial settlement from central government in December made it tough for the local authority to forward plan.

As part of the council’s approved medium-term financial strategy, it has targeted savings of over £17.5million.

Councillor England added that nearly £6m of those savings are from income generation.

“I think people can see what’s happening around the country and then how well we are managing the cuts without it impacting on residents and I think they feel quite proud of what we’re doing,” he added.

“We’re totally reluctant to (increase council tax), you can see the last two years where we didn’t put council tax up. Unfortunately we’ve got to put costs up this year and every penny will go into social care.”

Councillor England added that inflationary pressures had seen the cost of delivering adult and social care rise 50 per cent in two years.

“It’s not them (providers) money grabbing but dealing with the effects of utility bills, labour rates and the cost of food going up,” he added.

“To heat the care homes, it’s been terrible for them. It’s passed onto us. We do see interest rates coming down, we hope to see some stabilisation.

“In previous years we had stabilisation, it’s just been that we’ve seen a massive hike. I’m hopeful that we’ll see a stabilisation.”

Councillor Bill Tomlinson praised the staff working at Telford & Wrekin Council, who he said without which the authority would not run or residents receive care.

“A lot of these pressures will fall upon them (staff) to deliver what is really an emergency situation where we’re not getting adequate funding for this local authority from the government,” he added.

Councillor Tomlinson said over the budget set last year there was an additional demand of £12 million for adult and children’s social services.

For the financial year to come they are having to find an additional £13.5m.

He added that the council is expecting to draw out of reserves of £6.7m for the current financial year.

Councillor Tomlinson said the 4.99 per cent council tax increase equated to £4m and that was a third of what the social services increase is.

“If that carries on each and every year for the next two or three years then the prediction that our leader made that we will be bust in three years time; all local authorities will be bust,” Councillor Tomlinson said.

He asked the local authority to review the capital expenditure ‘stringently’, adding that he was ‘concerned’ about aspects of the communications budget.

Conservative group leader Andrew Eade said that the room for manoeuvre in the budget was ‘quite limited’.

Councillor Eade noted the ‘unprecedented challenges' that the council currently faces.

However, he noted ‘with great concern’ the level of burrowing by the council.

“Clearly much uncertainty over the future exists but a great deal of work is still to be done regarding ongoing savings and investments, all of which will inescapably have a huge impact on how this year’s budget will roll out,” said Councillor Eade.

“Social care should be funded centrally and central care expenditure is like a financial straight jacket on this and all other local authorities.”

Councillor England said that opposition group councillors, to the Labour majority, had sat on scrutiny committees where they ‘commended and supported’ the budget. No alternative budget was tabled by opposition councillors.