Council budget explained: Bills will rise significantly but services will see £10.4m of cuts
PUBLISHED: 20:55 09 February 2017 | UPDATED: 10:15 13 February 2017
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Council tax bills will rise dramatically next year but the millions of pounds the hike will generate will not be enough to protect North Somerset’s services, as ‘savage’ Government cuts mean the council must save £10.4million.
The average person living in a band D property in Weston will see their council tax bill rise by £70 a year – but millions of pounds will be cut from services.
North Somerset Council’s executive provisionally agreed to raise council tax by 1.75 per cent in 2017/18 at its meeting on Tuesday, where it also agreed to accept the Government’s offer of increasing bills by a further three per cent ringfenced to cover the rising cost of adult social care.
But, the cash-strapped council is facing reductions in bus routes, recycling centre opening hours, education funding and children’s services.
The authority’s leader, Nigel Ashton, said the year ahead will likely be the toughest yet, even though the council has already cut more than £50million from its annual spending since 2010.
The lack of cash coming from central Government means the authority will receive just one per cent of its funding from Westminster by 2020/21, which led Cllr Ashton to say this year’s budget is more critical than ever before.
He also warned the council cannot keep dipping into its reserves to balance its books year after year.
The Conservative councillor said: “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.”
The council will receive £2.9million from the adult social care levy, but it will invest a total of £4.7million into the area. But, at the same time, £2.6million will be cut in planned changes to adult services, which will impact learning disabilities services, the voluntary sector, care packages and accommodation.
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.”
Children’s services will also lose £1.7million – the council’s main focus is to ensure fewer children enter the care system but children’s centres will also be reviewed.
Council-supported buses will also see route changes to save cash, the opening hours of recycling centres will be reduced and funding for education in the district remains very much uncertain, as schools convert to academies.
The authority is asking the public to help cut costs and recycling is a key focus. Cllr Ashton said: “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 which could be used to deliver services.”
The budget still needs the full council’s approval, but it is likely to be a formality as the Conservative party holds a significant majority.
Cllr Donald Davies, leader of the Independent-Green group, said the Conservative budget will not be challenged by other parties because they feel alternative suggestions are dismissed without full consideration.
He said: “This (budget) is a mess that the Conservatives have made both nationally and locally.”