Rutland County Council proposes tax hike

Rutland County Council's Catmose offices in Oakham. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-150923-095025001
Rutland County Council's Catmose offices in Oakham. Photo: Alan Walters EMN-150923-095025001
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Rutland County Council is proposing a 3.99 tax rise in its share of the council tax for the second consecutive year - after a freeze for six years.

The council says the rise would offset rolling cuts in Government funding and meet growing demand for local services.

This 3.99 per cent figure includes a two per cent precept to fund social care in Rutland – services that look after people who have needs due to illness, disability, old age or poverty.

Councillors are now asking people to share their views as part of a public consultation.

Acting council leader Tony Mathias (Con), who is also the portfolio holder for finance, said the financial climate remained “challenging for all local councils”.

He added: “The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and 2017/18 Local Government Finance Settlement gave very little new money to councils and we must continue to fund local services with less support from central government.

“Alongside funding cuts and uncertainty, the council continues to experience pressure on its budget because of increased demand for services, like social care, and changes in the economic environment, which continue to drive up our costs.

“Councils are expected to raise revenue locally through council tax to make up any shortfall at the same time as reducing spending.”

The council said the overall funding it receives from Government is being reduced substantially year on year.

Total annual Government funding for the county was £12m in 2016/17. This is due to fall to £8.2m in 2019/20 – a loss of almost £4m per year.

The council has delivered savings of more than £8.5m over the past six years and further savings of £732,000 are planned for the coming financial year. However, the 2017/18 budget also includes £807,000 worth of new service pressures.

Coun Mathias added: “Even if we increase council tax each year as government allows, the gap between what we have and what we need to spend on local services will be around £2m by 2019/20.

“We plan to use our reserves to balance the 2017/18 budget and protect frontline services but the council cannot sustain this position long-term.

“Further reductions in spending, either through savings or by generating more income, will be needed in future and the sooner we do this the less severe it will need to be.

“For the next few years therefore, the council’s priorities remain the same: to work towards reducing our deficit position by focusing resources on priority areas, continuing to achieve value for money, delivering further savings and looking for opportunities to generate more income from investments.

“It is right that we look after those people in our communities who need the most care and support so we must also embrace the flexibility given to us by the government to raise council tax and fund vital social care services.”

Public consultation on the draft budget, which can be read in full online, is now ongoing and will run until Friday, January 27. Cabinet will meet to discuss the outcome on February 14 and full council will make the final decision on February 20.

l The net cost of local services for 2017/18 is £33.6m, down from £34.1m last year.

l The council’s main source of Government funding has been cut from £2.3m last year to just £889,000 this year and will be £0k by 2019/20.

l The council is planning to save £732,000 in the coming year - this mostly comes from restructures of staff and staff leaving of their own accord, reducing the need for redundancies.

l The budget includes £807,000 of new service pressures.

l The budget includes a contingency of £200,000 to meet in-year social care pressures, if needed.

l The overall budget is balanced using £67,000 from our General Fund and £108,000 of reserves.

l An increase in council tax of 3.99 per cent is proposed, including a two per cent precept to pay for social care services.

The consultation on the draft budget, which can be read in full online, runs until Friday, January 27.

Further information about how to take part is on display at the council’s Catmose office and at local libraries.

Alternatively, you can share your views online by visiting: www.rutland.gov .uk