Neighbouring Reading Borough Council has announced its planned Council Tax rise for the next financial year, which starts on April 5.
Unlike Surrey County Council, which is planning a 15% rise subject to a local referendum in May, Reading is planning a rise of 4.99% – the most it can increase the tax by without resorting to a public ballot.
The planned rise will be voted on at a policy meeting on Monday, February 13, before being debated at a council meeting on Tuesday, February 21.
The council said that the rise is due to “repeated and unprecedented cuts in Government funding at a time of huge increases in demand for vital Council services, particularly in social care.”
It argues that 70p in every £1 spent by the council goes on adult and children’s social care, and that, despite making £70million of savings, it still has a £44million shortfall to 2019/20.
Jo Lovelock, Reading Borough Council Leader, said: “With no extra money forthcoming from Government and yet more cuts on the horizon, the responsibility for paying for the huge demands on adult and children’s social care has been firmly passed on to local tax payers by this Government.
“As the Government continues to cut funding for vital local services, changes this year mean it will now also take away 75% of local business rates. Next year alone £90 million of rates collected from local businesses will leave Reading and go to Government. This is on top of the £50 million it has removed from the Council since 2011.
“Given the circumstances, we have very little option but to recommend the 5% increase for next year to set a balanced budget – which unlike the Government or NHS Trusts – we have to by law.
“The Government this year gave local authorities permission to raise Council Tax by an extra 1%. In Reading that will raise just over £760,000. This is a drop in the ocean when set alongside the estimated direct cost of paying for adult social care services in Reading next year, which is £35 million.
“When Surrey County Council announce a referendum on a 15% council rise to pay for adult social care, and when Caversham Primary School is this week forced to write to every parent asking for donations to fill their own funding gap, the reality of the gross underfunding of local services by the Government is laid bare.”
The February 13th Policy Committee report can be found at www.reading.gov.uk/article/9644/Policy-Committee-13-FEB-2017
The report details that in order to set a balanced budget for 17/18, the Council needs to use one-off measures totalling £11.2 million.
The funding gap to 2020 means major savings need to be identified in the early part of the financial year. That is in addition to other savings already identified and at an early stage of being implemented.
Some of Reading Borough Council’s £70million savings since 2010
- Closing Arthur Hill Swimming Pool in east Reading, despite not having a replacement pool available
- Introducing an annual charge for green bin collections
- Introducing a charge for residents first parking permits
- Reviewing high cost care packages for vulnerable people
- Cutting library hours
- Cutting funding to the town’s voluntary and community sector
- Cost savings with IT
- Moving council offices
Park Ward Green Cllr Rob White said: “This is yet another devastating year for Reading residents. People are feeling the full force of Conservative government cuts and local Labour mismanagement with a £7.5 million in year overspend.
“The council is currently consulting on closing nine out of 13 children’s centres. Arthur Hill swimming pool in east Reading has been closed. Vulnerable adults have had care packages cut. The list goes on.
“I understand why the Labour Council is proposing a 5% council tax increase, but Labour councillors also need to get a grip on the £7.5 million overspend, including millions wasted on on consultants and temporary managers.
“Until councils get together and stand up to the government the cuts will keep on coming.”