St Helens Council 'forced' to raise council tax by 2.99%

Council tax is to rise by 2.99 per cent
Council tax is to rise by 2.99 per cent

St Helens Council has been “forced” to raise council tax by 2.99%, a senior cabinet member has said.

Cabinet members approved the council’s 2019-20 budget at its meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

The report highlights the proposed council tax rise of 2.99%, which was agreed “in principle” by cabinet members in January, before going out to public consultation.

The increase, if approved by full council, means that residents who live in a Band D property will pay an annual cost of £1,446.05.

The report says the rise will provide “sustainable income” to the council which will help to protect the delivery of “vital services”.

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 tax by 2.99% without having to hold a referendum.

Speaking at cabinet, Coun Anthony Johnson, cabinet member for collaborative services, said it was with “real regret” that the council is being forced into raising council tax again.

Coun Johnson said: “It was interesting recently to hear the Conservatives saying how councils weren’t losing money and that they had other ways of getting the money in.

"Very much relating to the council tax rises we actually see, where they have forced us to increase council tax and increase the pressures on our already struggling public to simply survive.

“The services that we provide to local residents, especially the most needy residents in our communities, has been under pressure for a number of years.

“And it’s with real regret that we have to put council tax up. We’d love the money to be coming central government.

“We’re taking £100m worth of savings that has been forced on us through central government cuts.”

Coun Johnson said the local authority has cut around 1,600 jobs in recent years and warned that, despite the council tax rise, further cuts will have to be made to services.

The Bold councillor said: “We don’t want to be putting council tax up, we want to be protecting the residents of St Helens.

“And the only choice we have with this government, which has no agenda to protect the people of our societies, is to put a 2.99% rise on our council tax.

“It’s not where we want to be, but we have to protect services. And even with the rise that we’ve already seen we’re still forced to cut services further.

“We’re still seeing services under more and more pressure despite the number of cuts we’ve actually seen in recent years.”