Council Tax rises?
19/12/2016 Leave a comment
Last Thursday the DCLG SoS Sajid Javid put some flesh on the bones of the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and made a series of announcements about the funding for next year for Local Government. This is slightly strange as, most, some 97% of Councils signed up to the 4 years funding deal announced earlier this year in the previous Chancellors, George Osbourne’s Annual Budget Statement. So you’d sort of think that was it for the year but that’s not how it works!
Confused? – well you should be as it is confusing. When I first became a Councillor, I read a lengthy book called ‘A guide to Local Government Finances’, its sits on the shelf opposite me as I write this blog. It was a difficult read but I got through it just, but I now know that the nature of the finance of Local Government is far more subtler than that book lead me to believe!
Essentially the revised offer centres around Adult Social Care and to some extent having worked on both the LGA lobby position on Health and Social Care Funding, given evidence to the Commons Local Government Select Committee on Social Care Funding and helped edit several County Council Network papers and letters lobbying government on this issue these past few months I am pleased that the warning are perhaps being heard. Pleased not ecstatic as what was announced hardly amounted to the fundamental reforms we want to see. Given the scale of the rising cost of an Aging population and the significant cuts all councillors are having to make a percentage point here and there, whilst welcomed is not going to address the fundamental point about money.
In the various press reports and comment this week I have tried to stress the government allowing Councils to charge you more, is not the same as your permission to charge you more. I have also tried to get across that we the Conservatives at SCC are philosophically reluctant to take more of your hard-earned money than we absolutely must. At the same time, local government is not the NHS where the cheques will be honoured irrespective of the massively overspend budget if we as a County Council do not have reserves and cash flow then the wages bill would not get paid. So, it’s a balance and we carefully plan and check our budgets and reserves.
So we are planning to stick to our budget proposals and this coming year at the January Cabinet meeting and the Full Council in February we shall be proposing some savings, the modest use of reserves, the 2% National Adult Social Care Levy to pay for the increased costs of the National Living Wage and for the 7 year running a 0% rise in the base County Council tax. Making the council live within its means, protecting front line services and most importantly not treating your earned money as a pot we can simply dip into, is what we are about.