DRAFT BUDGET KEEPS COUNCIL TAX RISE LOW
Written by Jane Lythgoe on 10 January 2021
There’ll be a minimal increase in council tax for residents in Newcastle in the next twelve months.
The local authority needs to make nearly 1.3 million pounds savings caused mainly by lost income and extra spending due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. It means the majority of residents are set to pay less than NINE PENCE more per week for a wide range of services.
The budget plans, which are currently out to consultation will be considered by full council next month.
New budget proposals for 2021/22 include revised Council Tax charges meaning that the Council’s share of the annual bill would go up by £3.33 (six pence a week), £3.89 (seven pence) and £4.44 (nine pence) for 69 per cent of people in the borough who live in Band A, B and C properties respectively.
The draft budget, prepared in extraordinary circumstances, allows for another 10p per week for the average Band D home – owned by 12 per cent of residents – which equates to £5 over the 12 months.
Changing Council Tax, which will raise £187,000, is among a number of measures the Council has identified to meet a £1.275m budget shortfall for 2021/22 caused mainly by lost income and additional spending as a result of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Other methods include raising income and reducing expenditure where possible, continued savings from prioritising the digital delivery of processes and services, staffing-related savings – anticipated to result in no redundancies – and good housekeeping.
The budget plans – to be considered by Full Council on 17 February – also contain a capital programme budget of £12.923m which includes £4.6m for the refurbishment and reopening of Kidsgrove Sports Centre.
Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “I’m pleased to say that we have managed to create a balanced, robust and affordable draft budget for 2021/22. The Council has faced significant financial challenges and uncertainty through lost income across a wide range of services, estimated at £2.602m for 2020/21, coupled with additional costs of around £1.83m – including helping rough sleepers and processing business grants – as a direct result of the pandemic. Great care has been taken when looking at our budgets to ensure that we don’t ask for a penny more than is necessary from residents.
“The Government is helping to reduce the immediate pressure on our finances but our position is still very delicate and because of this we’re monitoring the situation very closely. I appreciate that many residents are also finding the pandemic tough so we’ve worked really hard to keep the Council Tax increase to an absolute minimum. We’ve seen more people receiving Council Tax support and as always help is available for those who genuinely can’t pay their bill.
“The Council is committed to providing excellent services and integral to this is the effective targeting of our available resources. We’ve made good progress against our objectives in the current year – with high standards of service delivery being achieved – which is exceptional considering these unprecedented times. I’m really proud of how we continue to respond to the crisis.”
Service successes include launching a new, simplified recycling and waste service resulting in crews collecting 20 per cent more materials, with the quality remaining very high.
Bereavement services achieved Gold Standard again in the Charter for the Bereaved and continue to deliver excellent services to families, responding to Government guidance and operating in a Covid-secure manner. Live streaming of services was facilitated by investment in a new system and a further phase of the cremated remains “leaf garden” was constructed in the grounds.
Meanwhile, the Council received £1.75m of advanced Town Deal funding to deliver a range of projects in Newcastle and Kidsgrove by the end of March 2021. It has since received more than £11m from the Future High Streets Fund for exciting new plans to redevelop Newcastle town centre, focused on the Ryecroft area.
Council Tax bills include separate charges for services provided by Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service. In addition, areas covered by a parish/town council pay a precept to them as well.
The Medium Term Financial Strategy outlines £5.124m of required savings over the next five years.