Councillors in St Helens have approved an eye-watering 5.99 per cent increase in council tax rates.
The move, which the council says is subject to consultation with residents and other stakeholders, was given the green light by cabinet members today (Wednesday).
The increase includes 2.99 per cent – the maximum increase without the need of a public referendum under revised Government regulations – with the additional three per cent Social Care Precept.
Government has given councils that provide adult social care the power to increase Council Tax by up to an additional three per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19 to contribute towards these services. If they do this, they can’t charge the precept again in 2019-20.
St Helens Council is following Government guidance in levying three per cent for both 2017-18 and 2018-19, meaning the care precept for 2019-20 will be zero.
Coun Anthony Johnson, cabinet member for Corporate Services, said: “It pains me to present this budget, but the overall grant reductions we have faced since 2010 have placed enormous pressure on the services provided by the council.
“By 2020, we will have lost a total of £90m from our budgets, equating to £510 we used to have for every person in St Helens.
“Such reductions in resources have had a substantial impact on the services the council provides as we seek to uphold our statutory duties and maintain those services valued by our residents. We are left with no choice but to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount.”
Coun Johnson added: “It’s important to remember that council tax is not a direct payment for a direct service; it is your contribution to the services that the council must legally provide, like waste collection and recycling, street lighting, highway maintenance, and especially protecting vulnerable people.
“Social care and the safeguarding of vulnerable children, for example, may not be services that you are personally accessing, but one day a member of your family may need care, or a child on your street may need protection.
“Your Council Tax allows us to do this, but it doesn’t completely cover the costs. In fact, in 2017-18 we anticipate Council Tax income of £66.4m, but we expect to pay £69.6m on adult social care alone. It’s a real challenge to provide these services with the resources we have, and one we can only meet with residents’ support.”