North Somerset council tax hike looms
PUBLISHED: 06:09 09 February 2017
Council tax bills are set to rise significantly next year as North Somerset battles against ‘savage’ cuts in funding by central Government.
Leader Nigel Ashton says rises in council tax are unavoidable, as the authority has been forced to cut more than £60million out of its budget since 2010.
Yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, the council’s executive provisionally agreed a 1.75 per cent increase for people’s tax bill, while accepting the Government’s offer of being able to increase bills by a further three per cent to cover rising adult social care costs.
It still requires the full council’s approval later this month, however that is likely to be a formality with the Conservatives holding a significant majority.
The changes proposed would see the average band D council tax bill in Portishead increase by £70 per year.
Other cost-cutting measures will be introduced through ideas such as reducing opening hours at tips and changing council-supported bus routes.
Cllr Ashton said: “The year ahead is likely to be the toughest yet.
“We have an excellent track record of delivering savings, but after six years of savage cuts, the choices we have to make to balance the books become harder and harder.”
Increasing social care costs is one of the main reasons for the tax hike, but a severely-reduced amount of money coming from Westminster is also to blame, says the council leader.
In 2017/18 about nine per cent of the council’s budget will be funded from central Government cash, but as of 2020 this will drop to just one per cent.
Cllr Ashton said: “The biggest challenge we face is continuing to meet the growing pressures to provide support for our most vulnerable residents, particularly elderly people.
“Of course they are the residents who need our help the most, but given the scale of expenditure in this area, it is also where we should focus our efforts to work more efficiently. Small changes here could improve service outcomes for people as well as have a considerable positive effect on our overall financial position.”
Cost savings are being looked at across all council services, and Cllr Ashton believes people can do their bit at home to help.
The Conservative councillor said: “I would add though that, as well as the work we are doing, our residents can also help by playing their part.
“A great example of this is recycling. At the moment this area recycles about 60 per cent of the waste it produces, but we could do even better.
“It costs us £4.8million a year to dispose of waste to landfill, but we could reduce this figure by around £1million if everyone recycled as much as they possibly could, money that could be used to deliver services in North Somerset.”
Cllr Don Davies, leader of the Independent-Green group, said the Conservative budget will not be challenged by other parties because they feel alternative suggestions in years have always been rejected without sensible consideration.
He said: “This (budget) is a mess that the Conseratives have made both nationally and locally.”
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