Council tax will rise for the first time in six years to offset the impact of cuts in Government funding and the growing demand being placed on the county’s social care services.
Rutland County Council’s budget for the coming financial year was approved at a special full council meeting on Monday. Councillors voted to support an overall council budget of £35.7m to deliver services across the county during 2016/17 – an increase of 0.82 per cent on the previous year’s budget.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Terry King, portfolio holder for finance and council leader, said: “The budget process for 2016/17 represents a challenge for both the council and local residents. Although the budget for the year ahead has been in development for some time as part of our medium term financial plan, the latest local Government finance settlement has resulted in unprecedented cuts to our funding.”
The council will increase its portion of the tax bill by 3.99 per cent - an extra £1.10 per week on the average Band D property.
Coun King said the Government assumes it will raise the tax for each of the next four years to offset the loss of the Revenue Support Grant. This was the main source of Government funding and will fall from £4.3m in 2015/16 to £0 in 2019/20.
Coun King added: “On top of this, in 2019/20, the council will have to pay Government an additional £960k from the business rates we collect. Based on the existing settlement our Government funding per household reduces from £534 in 2016/17 to £293 in 2019/20.”
Included within the 3.99 per cent increase is a 2 per cent precept specifically to fund social care services - services that help people with needs arising from illness, disability, old age or hardship.
Coun King added: “Social care services are some of the most important services that we provide but they are also among the most costly. The number of people in Rutland who rely on us for care is increasing all the time as our population grows and elderly people live longer. Social care also plays a crucial role in supporting the wider health system so it’s important we are able to provide these services for residents – especially those who are most in need. Despite the pressures we are facing, the financial planning that has taken place in previous years means we don’t need to make cuts to services and can continue to look at different ways of working. In short, the council’s financial position remains stable but is nonetheless very challenging.”
In addition to the growing demand for social care services and cuts to funding, the council’s 2016/17 budget accounts for additional pressures arising from an increase in National Insurance contributions and changes to the National Minimum Wage.
Last minute alterations to the Government’s settlement funding means the council no longer has to draw upon General Fund Reserves to balance its 2016/17 budget.
But the medium term financial picture remains unchanged, with the council facing a £2.5m funding gap by 19/20.
Prior to Monday’s full council meeting, the budget was subject to public consultation and has been considered by the council’s cabinet and scrutiny panels.
For more information about the budget visit www.rutland.gov.uk