Proposal to freeze core council tax and protect the vulnerable

But ongoing cuts to its funding mean that, for the first time, the council expects to pass on the government’s 2% social care levy to residents.

The 2% precept would go directly towards social care costs to support the borough’s most vulnerable people. It would pay for services such as home care for older and disabled residents, dementia support services and protecting people from abuse.

A 2% increase in the council tax band D charge is £21.20 per year and which would generate £2.3million. It is the equivalent of an extra 41pence per week on the average Band D council tax payment.

If councillors do decide to pass on the social care precept it would not generate enough funding to meet the rising demand for these services. This is why the council has had to allocate an additional £13million in 2017/18 to manage the growth in demand for adult social care.  This is five and a half times more money than the social care precept.

The council has frozen council tax rates for the previous eight years through careful financial management; acting decisively to make savings; working to boost the local economy and encouraging investment in the area, including much needed new homes. This has generated millions of pounds in additional funds through business rates and council tax payments.

Council leader, Councillor Julian Bell, said: “We’ve continued to freeze council tax for as long as possible because we understand the financial pressures our residents face, especially the lowest paid."

“Over the past eight years this has meant council tax payers have benefited on average from a cumulative cash saving of £1,040*.

“Despite extensive and sustained cuts to our government funding we have been successfully growing our way out of austerity. We have avoided putting up council tax, which many other boroughs have had to do, and have been investing substantially in social care.

“We remain committed to freezing core council tax for as long as possible.”
Reductions to its main government grant, increased demand for services and rising costs have meant that the council has needed to identify £168million worth of savings since 2010, approximately 80% have already been achieved, and the remainder will all have to be delivered by 2020. 

The council expects its main government grant to reduce by a further £24.9million in the next four years.
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance, performance and customer services, said: “Social care is in crisis across the country and we need a national funding solution. Instead, the burden has been laid at the feet of local authorities as the government cuts funding and assumes we’ll pick up the tab. 

“Looking after the borough’s most vulnerable people is one of the most vital things we do and also the most costly. But we cannot turn our backs on those who need us. Sadly this year we may have no choice but to pass on the government’s social care precept.”

Last year, the council created a special £5million social care transformation fund for children’s and adult services which will be used to redesign services so that fewer people need intensive help in future years.

If the proposals are agreed by the cabinet, the recommendations will go forward for discussion at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, 21 February when the budget will be set for 2017/18.

Also included in residents’ council tax bills is a precept to the Greater London Authority to help pay for policing,  with the Mayor’s share of council tax bills due to rise to £280.02 for Band D taxpayers, an increase of £4.02 per year  – which is less than eight pence per week.