Council tax could rise as much as five per cent by | Gloucester News Centre - http://gloucesternewscentre.co.uk/
Families across Gloucestershire are expected to be hit by council tax increases next year which could be as high as five per cent – at a time when many are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has announced today that there will be more flexibility for local authorities to set their council tax rates.
The Autumn Statement says councils in England will be able to set tax rises of up to 3% per year from April 2023, without the need for a referendum.
Also, councils with social care responsibilities, such as Gloucestershire County Council, will be able to increase the adult social care precept by up to 2% per year.
The Chancellor says this will give councils greater flexibility to set council tax levels based on the needs, resources and priorities of their area, including adult social care.
This could mean the portion of the council tax bill which goes to Shire Hall could rise to 1,523.86 a year for a band D property, an extra £72.50.
The county council was given the opportunity to comment on the announced changes. But they declined so it is still uncertain how much council tax will rise next year.
Cheltenham Borough Council’s finance cabinet member Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank) said the Autumn Statement does “nothing” to improve their finances. He is concerned that funding for councils is not in line with the rate of inflation which means their budgets will be squeezed.
“What worries me when it comes to the Government setting our levels of council tax, as has been for such a long time now, is that it is below the rate of inflation. Council tax isn’t all of our funding but we are under huge pressure because of the cost of living emergency,” he said.
“It has been exacerbated exponentially in recent months by this catastrophe of a Conservative Government. To just have some peripheral changes to council tax is almost meaningless.”
Forest of Dean District Council finance cabinet member Richard Leppington (The Progressive Independents, Bream) said in Coleford they will have to wait to see what the financial settlement is going to be from the Government.
He said: “We won’t know until the week before Christmas. In terms of being able to increase council tax by 3% well we are able to increase it by 1.99% now or £5 whichever is greater.
“That won’t affect us but the social care increase will be something for the county. At this stage, we’ve only really had half the picture.”
Tewkesbury Borough Council’s lead member for finance and assets Robert Vines (C, Badgeworth) said allowing councils to increase council tax would just pass the buck from Government to local authorities.
“The council tax threshold increase won’t really affect Tewkesbury because we can increase it by £5 which was about 3.7% this year,” he said.
Cotswold District Council finance cabinet member Mike Evemy (LD, Siddington and Cerney Rural) said it was a tough time for everybody including local authorities. The council’s budget consultation is currently underway and they are considering tax rises and increases to parking and green waste charges.
He said: “What has been announced today doesn’t change much for district and borough councils in Gloucestershire. There doesn’t appear to be any new money for local government outside of social care. District councils don’t appear to be getting anything.
“They are being asked to work with an overall total settlement which is the same as before we had inflation of 11.1%. They thought inflation would be 2.5%, it’s not.”
Stroud District Council leader Catherine Braun (G, Wotton-under-Edge) said it was very disappointing that no new funding was provided for public services to redress the years of austerity and under-investment.
She said: “There was no indication of additional money to cover the existing inflationary pressures for councils, so we will have to carefully consider how we manage our budgets for next year to maintain essential services. It is frightening to imagine what the further £30 billion of spending cuts announced in the Autumn Statement would mean for our country in the years to come.”
Cllr Braun also said it was welcoming to see some acknowledgement of the need for energy efficiency. but the proposed measures do not go anywhere near far enough to help people who need their homes insulated right now.
And Gloucester City Council was approached but declined to comment on the changes to council tax announced in the autumn statement.
By Carmelo Garcia – Local Democracy Reporter
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