Government is slammed as council tax rise looms
‘We’re expected to do more with less’ – leader
PEOPLE in Stockport are facing a 4pc council tax hike this year – but town hall bosses have pointed the finger squarely at the government.
Proposals that will go before the full council later this month include a 1.99pc increase in the ‘general’ council tax and a 2pc rise to the ring-fenced adult social care precept.
It means that an average Band D household faces paying an extra £92 per year once increases to Andy Burnham’s fire and policing precepts – ( £5 and £15 respectively) are added in.
This will take the average household’s bill up from £2142.40 to £2234.66 – about £7.70 more per month – from April, representing an overall hike of 4.3pc.
The council’s Lib Dem administration last year declared its ‘ambition’ to freeze bills 2023/2034, as the cost of living crisis began to bite.
The aspiration was dismissed as ‘fantasy economics’ by Labour. The autumn budget further threw it into further doubt, indicating councils would be expected to take full advantage of the new 5pc maximum increase.
Now the Lib Dems have had to abandon the plan, but say the blame lies squarely at the door of the government.
Council leader Mark Hunter said central government ‘as ever’ expecting local authorities ‘to do more with less’ – noting that Stockport had taken a £133.5m hit to its budget since 2010.
“I think most people believe the government has some gall, some cheek to be asking for local residents – council taxpayers in this borough and across the country – basically to pay for their mistakes, having crashed the economy,” he told a cabinet meeting this week.
A clear reference to the brief premiership of Liz Truss – whose minibudget is estimated to have cost the country £30bn – he added: “That’s what really makes us sore about this overall situation.”
His comments came after Coun Malcolm Allan, cabinet member for finance and resources, had outlined the reasoning behind the 4pc hike.
Coun Allan said that had the government’s settlement not been £1.5m less than last year and some help had been offered towards the authority’s energy bills, council tax could have been frozen.
He also noted the council had been ‘virtually compelled’ to levy the 2pc rise in the adult social care charge by the way the government’s ‘settlement’ for councils had been put together.
On the 1.99pc hike to the ‘general’ council tax element, he said: “Our view is that we should go for the lowest council tax increase we can sensibly recommend and therefore we have come to a figure of 1.99pc recommended that would make the total 3.99pc which we believe will end up being the lowest in the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs.”
Despite his disappointment he said the proposal was in line with the original intention to help those most in need.
“That fits with our intention at the start of the year to do what we could in a massive criss then that just got worse, not just for the residents in Stockport, [but] in particular for those that are most affected by the cost of living crisis,” he said.
“Those people that need most of our help and those people that need our services – and particularly those that, if I can put it this way, can’t help themselves.”
He added: “With that in mind, I think we have come up with a figure which is the best we can do for the residents of Stockport and that reflects a well managed budget.”