Council tax bills set to rise by 3.99 per cent

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Town hall chiefs in St Helens want to raise council tax bills by an eye-watering 3.99 per cent as they continue to wrestle with unprecedented funding cuts.

Councils with social care responsibilities – including St Helens - have been allowed to raise Council Tax more than the two per cent threshold that normally requires a local referendum.

The maximum is just below four per cent – with the condition that the extra funds are used for care provision.

The basic increase also takes account of further cuts in Government grants.

For 2016-17 this equates to £9 million – and takes the total lost since 2010-11 to £74 million.

“We will have lost 75 per cent of the support that we used to be able to count on from central government,” said council leader Barrie Grunewald.

“Yet at the same time we face additional spending pressures.

“The Government claims that it is providing greater clarity with this grant settlement – but as far as we’re concerned all it does is confirm our worst fears.

“Once again we’re seeing deprived areas like St Helens come off far worse.

“If that wasn’t enough, we’re also facing other, significant financial pressures. The removal of opted-out status for pensions means that our National Insurance costs will rise by 3.4 per cent.”

The council has been doing all it can to reduce its costs and generate more revenue. Last year it beat its target by getting 632 new homes built in the borough - generating more Council Tax income.

“There has also been more tax revenue from a higher level of commercial activity in St Helens. Major efficiency savings have also been made.

“The council has changed the way it delivers and purchases services - and maximised value for money at every opportunity. The council workforce is also significantly smaller than

it used to be.”

Coun Grunewald added: “This situation is unlikely to change. So we’ve already started work on a major policy review of our spending priorities that will help us to deal with the challenges we’ll face beyond 2017.

“However these challenges are significant. As well as cost pressures in the care sector they include general inflation, increases in the number of adults and children needing support and rising levels of need, increases in demand for everyday services as the population grows and pressure on homelessness budgets.”