Photo: Sefton Council leader Ian Maher
Last year Sefton Council set a balanced two year budget to cover the period up to March 2017.
This included all the service cuts required to meet £55m of Government funding reductions. It also assumed that Council Tax would go up by the maximum allowed by the Government at that time of 2%.
Since this budget was set, Sefton Council has seen a significant increase in the number of children in care and increased adult social care costs.
The Government had promised extra funding for care but this has not materialised in Sefton. Instead the Government is allowing councils to increase its Council Tax by an extra 2% meaning that Council Tax payers will bear the burden of these increased costs.
However, it is feared this increase will fund only a fraction of the additional cost and as a result Sefton Council has had to consider how it can make up the shortfall.
The Council has decided that it has little choice but to increase Council Tax by 3.99% which is the maximum allowed by Government. This will raise £4m which is not enough to cover the increased cost of care.
However, the Council does not want to cut services any further next year and so it will use its reserves to balance the budget. It recognises that this is a short term measure but has made the decision knowing that further Government cuts are on the way and that these decisions are best taken in a planned way with sufficient time for implementation.
In simple terms, by the end of March 2017 Sefton Council will have lost almost half of its funding compared to 2011.
Cllr Ian Maher, Labour Leader of Sefton Council, said: “Last year we implemented a two year budget to save more than £55m following a further round of Government funding cuts. We have delivered these cuts with a heavy heart – knowing the major impact they would have.
“By the end of 2017, we will have lost a staggering £169m from our annual budget – which equates to 45% in real terms since 2011.
This means Sefton communities, and the local economy, have lost 45p in every pound that the council was spending in 2011. This is simply not fair when other more affluent areas of the country have been allowed to spend more.
“But that is not the end of it. At a time when all councils are facing significant increase in social care costs, we had hoped that Government would help us to protect these essential services. In response we were told to pass on the burden to Council Tax payers. This amounts to nothing less than additional national taxation though the back door in effect an ‘Osbourne Tax’.
“This would be bad enough on its own but this brings in about £2m which is a fraction of our additional costs. It is too little – too late and I call upon this Government to properly fund our care services and protect our vulnerable children and older people.
“We have decided not to inflict any more cuts in 2016/17 than we previously announced. We will balance the budget using council reserves plus a 3.99% Council Tax increase, which includes the ‘Osbourne Social Care Tax’.
“We know this is short term and we will have to find more savings in the future but it is the right thing to do while we plan out longer term approach.”
The Government has recently stated that it will continue to cut councils and Sefton Council can expect further funding cuts over the next three to four years.
Sefton will carefully consider how it can meet the Government austerity measure and protect as many local services as possible.
The council will look first at how they can grow the local economy – providing more job opportunities for residents and income for the council. They will also seek out additional revenue where possible and look to minimse the impact of further cuts on our most vulnerable and on valued local services.
Sefton Council will agree its 2016/17 budget at a special budget meeting held on March 3 at Bootle Town Hall.
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