6 November 2013
Telford & Wrekin Council is set to recommend that council tax should be frozen for the next two years.
This follows a change in the Government’s approach to its council tax freeze grant paid for this year.
The Council had previously rejected this grant equal to a 1% council tax increase as it was only payable for two years and did nothing for the Council’s longer term financial sustainability following unprecedented cuts in Government funding to councils and this view was supported in a public consultation.
However, the Government has now indicated that the council tax freeze grant would be ongoing, allowing it to be built into long-term budgets.
The Council says that accepting future similar grants now would offer some help to residents to ease financial pressures from widespread pay freezes, welfare reforms and rising prices for things such as energy and food.
Telford & Wrekin Council therefore plans, subject to feedback as part of its budget consultation, to take the Government’s council tax freeze grant in the next two years – on the assumption that this will also be made ongoing, although the Government has yet to confirm this will definitely be the case, and freeze council tax levels for this time.
In the two previous years, the Council had opted to increase council tax by 2.5 per cent and then 1.9 per cent to protect services and because the freeze grant was only offered as a one-off.
This was a view that was clearly supported by the community, whose response to extensive consultations favoured the council making increases in council tax to help protect local services.
The Council must find a further £23 million of savings by 2015/16 and a decision to freeze council tax over the next two years would add a further £700,000 to this, bringing the total to £23.7million
This is after savings of over £50m that have already been made since 2010 by Telford & Wrekin, so in total the savings the Council will have made will equate to over £1,000 for every home in the area.
The consultation on the Council’s budget proposals will launch in January 2014, which will include the opportunity to give views on freezing council tax, and there will be more publicity about this in due course
Councillor Bill McClements, cabinet member for Finance and Enterprise, said: “The Government has moved the goalposts. With this change in treatment of the council tax freeze grant for the current year, we can expect future freeze grants to be built into long term budgets. This would allow us to change our approach on council tax.
“Accepting the grant and freezing council tax for the next two years, would however add further savings pressures but we believe our approach to attract jobs and growth will help close this additional gap through the extra funding it will create for the council.
“We have faced very significant challenges in delivering more than £50 million ongoing revenue savings since 2009/10.
“The Council has lost more than 1,000 posts, cut by 50 per cent its senior management team and back officecosts by more than 40 per cent.
“Subject to feedback in our budget consultation, we will be recommending that we now take the grant and freeze council tax.
“We are very mindful of the cost of living pressures, such as recent energy price hikes, and the impact of welfare reforms on local residents and this, combined with the fact that the grant is no longer a one off, makes accepting this grant now more viable.”