This Tuesday evening the Full Council met to discuss the budget for the financial year 2016-17. These discussions have been held in light of the release of the Local Government finance settlement, which imposed upon us a cut of £54 million over the next four years, on top of the £128 million we have already suffered since 2010. Instead of admitting that it has failed to fund local services adequately, the government has instead chosen to place the burden for maintaining these services on the shoulders of councils and local taxpayers.
As a result of this, councillors in Tameside have been forced, like the majority of other councils in the North West and throughout the country, to raise council tax by 1.99% and introduce the full 2% adult social care precept.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly, but due to government cuts our vital services are being put at risk. As an urban, Northern council we have also received no additional income from the government’s transition grant, most of which has gone to rural shire counties in the South and Home Counties. The 10 local authorities that received the most from the transition grant each received on average £12.72 million, over four times what we can legally raise through increasing council tax and the social care precept.
At the end of the last year, our online budget consultation showed that 75% of respondents were supportive of a council tax increase when they were made aware of the financial challenges that we face.
Tameside remains a low tax borough. Our total council tax increase over the last 10 years is lower than both the English and the North West average, and it’s a fact that even with this increase our council tax still remains one of the lowest in both Greater Manchester and the North West. The increase will also raise £2.8 million to ensure that we can continue to run the vital services that our elderly and vulnerable residents depend on.
We will keep making the case against austerity and for investment in local authority services at the regional and national level, as well as continuing our own plans to make Tameside a better place to live, work and do business in.