Council leader admits tax could rise

PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 January 2013 | UPDATED: 09:32 18 January 2013

The final budget will be set tonight

The final budget will be set tonight

Archant

COUNCIL tax bills may rise as North Somerset Council battles to balance the books for the next financial year.

Speaking at the authority’s full meeting on Tuesday, leader Nigel Ashton said a tax rise of 1.5-2 per cent was being considered for the year 2013/14 as the authority struggles to deal with unfavourable Government grant funding.

The Mercury reported last year that the council’s initial savings target of £47.3million over four years had risen to £86.3million over seven years as a result of changes to the way the Government allocates funding to councils.

That had left North Somerset with a funding gap of £4.736million for 2013/14, but that figure has been whittled down to £266,000, savings which the authority must find before its £158.427million budget is set on February 26.

One of the biggest decisions facing Cllr Ashton and his fellow executive members before that meeting is whether to raise council tax by 1.5-2 per cent, which would raise up to £1.62million, or accept a Government grant of £916,000 to freeze council tax for the next year and bring forward the remaining £756,000 from the 2012/13 freeze grant.

That would add £1.672million to the coffers.

Cllr Ashton said: “I am in favour of keeping council tax as low as possible this year because it does affect everybody.”

The youth service provision budget is among those hardest hit in the council’s cuts, with the figure set to reduce from £286,000 to a mere £25,000 over the next two years.

A review of adult social care packages and provision will save £300,000, while a reduction in street-cleaning expenditure and the scrapping of the authority’s budget for public conveniences will save a further £680,000.

Executive member for finance Tony Lake said: “I think it continues a theme that has run through all of the budgets we have produced since 2007.

“We have found different ways of providing services without a significant impact on the actual services. It is something that is proving harder and harder to do, but we will continue to do so.”


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