St Helens Council approves council tax rise despite 'no confidence' calls from opposition

Cabinet chiefs approved proposals to increase council tax by 2.99%
Cabinet chiefs approved proposals to increase council tax by 2.99%

S Helens Council has agreed to raise council tax – despite objections from opposition councillors who said they had “no confidence” in the ruling Labour group.

Cabinet chiefs approved proposals to increase council tax by 2.99% last week as part of the council’s 2019-20 revenue and capital budget.

Last night, full council rubber stamped the rise.

This means that from April, an average Band D property, the standard measure of council tax, will pay £1,745.86 – an £87 increase from 2018-19.

This includes precepts for the police and crime commissioner, Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority.

Residents who live in an area with a parish council will also pay slightly more.

While the budget and the council tax rise were approved, it did not garner the support of opposition councillors.

Teresa Sims, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, addressed members early in the meeting to say the group would be abstaining from all council business on the night.

Coun Sims said: “I’ve been on this council for 21 years now and during that time I’ve experienced quite a lot of weathers and storms.

“And so it is with deep regret that tonight the Liberal Democrat group will be abstaining from council business.

“Because we cannot support the actions and decisions of a ruling group that we have no confidence in to administer the functionality of this council, given the events of the last few weeks and the reports in the local media and elsewhere.”

Tory leader Allan Jones said the Conservative group also had “no confidence” in the Labour council, although he said they would not be abstaining.

Council leader Derek Long accused opposition councillors of making a “political manoeuvre”.

The Labour leader said there was an “unprecedented level of attack” on St Helens Council and local authorities across the country.

The council tax rise comes amid further cuts to council funding from central government, which the local authority says will amount to £90m by 2020.

Earlier this month it was confirmed that the council will see £5m slashed from its revenue support grant, which can be used to finance any service, as part of the government’s finance settlement for 2019-20.

The finance settlement also confirmed that from April, local authorities will be able to raise council tax by 2.99%, without having to hold a referendum.

The council say the rise, which will see an average household increase of £4.85 per month, will help investment in significant additional resources to transform children’s social services to keep children and young people safe from harm and neglect.

The rise will also contribute to the work being done through the award-winning St Helens Cares to support people to live healthy lives and reduce the need for costly social and health care.

Councillors approved the budget for 2019-20 and the council tax rise following a named vote.

Conservative councillors Allan Jones and Rob Reynolds voted against the budget and the council tax rise. Independent councillor James Tasker also voted against both proposals.

Liberal Democrat councillors Teresa Sims, Geoff Pearl and Michael Haw all abstained.