South Gloucestershire Council’s (SGC’s) element of the council tax levied on local residents is to increase by 5.99 percent from April, meaning it will have risen by almost 11 percent in just two years.
Meeting on 14th February, councillors agreed to set a revenue budget of £215.9 million, with the increase in the council-controlled element of council tax being made up of a 2.99 percent general increase plus a further 3 percent, which is the Adult Social Care Levy. The approximately £9.7 million raised through this levy will be spent exclusively on services supporting the most vulnerable adults in the community. The council says that this only partially covers the additional costs arising in social care from increasing demand and market prices.
The budget papers show that while the council’s finances are projected to remain in balance for the coming three years, this is only by using reserves set aside for this purpose and delivering additional savings. The council concedes that challenges remain in the medium term, caused by falling government grants and increased costs and demand for services.
Public consultation carried out by the council prior to the budget-setting process showed that 54 percent of respondents were in favour of a council tax rise for 2018/19 of 3.99 or 4.99 percent (inclusive of the Adult Social Care Levy), although none of the presented options were as high as the 5.99 percent finally decided upon.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, Matthew Riddle, said:
“I am determined, for the sake of frontline services, to move forward with a balanced budget. In doing so, we are prioritising our most vulnerable residents with significant increases in funding for services for vulnerable adults and children.”
“These are challenging times, but I believe we have and will continue to meet the challenges before us. The plans approved today will mean that the everyday services we all rely upon will continue to be delivered and we have also made some additional commitments to support schools, care leavers and those looking for a home.”
“I know that some will feel the squeeze of rising council tax, but while we continue to look for ways to be as efficient and cost effective as possible, we must find ways to replace the funding which used to come from government and to meet rising demand for services.”
“We are committed as a council to making best use of taxpayers’ money. Costs are rising, but we are taking steps to keep them under control.”
Leaders from both the Labour and Liberal Democrat groups on the council criticised the ruling Conservative administration for approving a budget which incorporates £36 million of additional savings over the three years from 2019 to 2022, without specifying how the savings will be achieved.
Attempts by the Labour group to pin down the Conservatives on the precise nature of these cuts, and their impact on services, charges and staffing, were rebuffed with the response that “directors are working confidentially with the administration”.
Lib Dem group Deputy Leader, Cllr Clare Young, commented:
“It seems extraordinary that councillors would commit to such massive cuts without knowing how services will be affected.”
“Cllr Riddle says that belts have to be tightened in these times of austerity, and we accept that, but South Gloucestershire has already tightened its belt pretty damn hard in recent years. There will come a point, not very long from now I fear, when there will be simply nothing left to cut. I didn’t come into local government to see it stripped to the bone and unable to help people we were elected to serve. I’m sure he didn’t either.”
In addition to the South Gloucestershire element, bills that will be coming through letterboxes in the next few weeks will include contributions to Avon & Somerset Police (up 6.6 percent) and the Avon Fire & Rescue Service (up 2.99 percent), and the precept raised by Bradley Stoke Town Council (unchanged from 2017/18), producing a grand total of £1,819.77 for a Band D property, an increase of 5.68 percent over last year.
Indicative increases in the total council tax bill which will be faced by Bradley Stoke residents for the following three financial years are given as 2.66 percent, 1.90 percent and 1.89 percent.
Above: Total figures for Bradley Stoke residents, comprising contributions to South Gloucestershire Council, Avon & Somerset Police, Avon Fire & Rescue and Bradley Stoke Town Council. Figures for other parishes will vary.
This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal news magazine (on page 8). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH, to 9,500 homes in Bradley Stoke, Little Stoke and Stoke Lodge. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
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