Ashfield District Council blames Government cuts for Council Tax raise

NMAC10-2465-2

Kirkby Ashfield District Council Offices
NMAC10-2465-2 Kirkby Ashfield District Council Offices

Ashfield District Council has blamed Government cuts for raising the rate of Council Tax again in its budget this year.

The authority approved its budget for the coming financial year 2016/17, including a rise in council tax and far ranging changes.

Councillors met on Wednesday to rubber-stamp their budget, which includes savings of £1.005 million this year in the face of continued reductions in Government funding.

During a heated meeting, opposition councillors submitted an amendment calling for a zero increase in Council Tax, which was rejected.

Council Tax for 2016/17 for a property in Band D will be increased from £175.46 to £180.46, an increase of £5 or 2.85 per cent.

The council tax rise has been set at the maximum possible - any increase above £5 at Band D would be subject to a referendum.

For band A this will mean an increase of £3.33 or 6p a week.

The new Council Tax rates for this coming year are: Band A £120.31, Band B: £140.36, band C: £160.41, band D:£180.46, band E: £220.56, band F: £260.66, band G: £300.77, band H £360.92.

The total Council Tax charged has risen by 4.1 per cent and includes precepts from Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority.

The new annual rates are Band A: £1,194, Band B: £1,393.11, Band C: £1,592, Band D: £1,791.14, Band E: £2,189.17, Band F: £2, 587.20, Band G: £2,985.23, Band H: £3,582.28.

Annesley and Felley Parish Council has increased its precept by 2.04 per cent and Selston Parish Council has frozen its precept.

How does it affect your band?

Band A property Annual increase of £47

Band B property Annual increase of £54.76

Band C property Annual increase of £62.70

Band D property Annual increase of £70.54

Band E property Annual increase of £86.22

Band F property Annual increase of £101.90

Band G property Annual increase of £117.57

Band H property Annual increase of £141.09

Leader of the Council, Councillor Cheryl Butler said: “This is the sixth year the Council has been forced to make savings and there are more financial challenges ahead because the Council still needs to find an additional £3.8 million by 2022.

“This year’s budget follows a sustained effort in which the Council has modernised, restructured and transformed. We need to continue to be innovative and look for new ways to generate income and we are well underway with plans to support this.

“We have worked hard to protect front-line services across the district and to ensure that local residents continue to get the services they need at the best possible value for money, and the budget recommendations reflect that.

“Although decisions have been difficult, we are on track to deliver the necessary savings to deliver a balanced budget this year.

“The government is continually failing to provide adequate support for the growing pressures of social care, expecting local councils such as ours, to suffer the consequences. The Council has taken the difficult decision to raise council tax in order to help protect services for the residents of Ashfield; a position that is unlikely to change over the time of this administration.

“The government is making cuts at the expense of public services, redirecting money from local councils rather than putting money into the system to ensure it is funded properly for residents and communities.”

Presenting the budget plans, Councillor Jackie James, portfolio holder for corporate service, said the decision was set in the context of the continued significant reduction in Government funding which is being suffered by Ashfield and many other district councils.

Coun James said: “We have had to present a budget in the context of a frightening level of cuts from central government. Our resources the Government deems adequate for the needs of Ashfield’s residents are now 40 per cent lower than in 2010 having fallen by 12 per cent in 2017/18 alone.”

She said the behaviour of the government had been particularly unacceptable this year.

The Government reduced without prior notice in December another funding source, the New Homes Bonus (NHB) which will eventually settle at £1 million lower than previous assumptions.

Money from the New Homes Bonus (NHB) will be diverted to upper-tier councils to fund adult social care,

The council’s NHB payment will fall from £2.6 million in 2017/18 to £1.2 million in 2022/23.

The council’s overall resources are predicted to fall by a total of £2.734 million between 2016/17 and 2020/21, or a further 29 per cent.

Deputy Leader Councillor Don Davis said: The removal of the New Homes Bonus has made it virtually impossible to set a budget for the next three or four years.

“The is part of our baseline and an attack on that is an attack on our residents.”

The opposition group including Independent and Conservative councillors proposed an alternative budget with no Council Tax increase.

They asked the council to withdraw its proposals relating to Huthwaite Leisure Centre which is under threat of closure unless an alternative way of running it can be agreed.

They also proposed cutting councillors basic allowance by £1,200 a year and the leaders, deputy leader’s and cabinet allowances. They said this would save £80,000.

They also proposed reducing a director’s post saving £90,000 and unsubscribing to the Local Government Association, saving £10,000.

The result would be to increase net expenditure by £36,000 which could be met from the authorities General Reserve. They claim the council is sitting on an £8 million pot of cash.

Independent councillor Jason Zadrozny said: “I agree the council is in a dire financial position but politics is about choices and we have shown you choices .

He added: “We should have saved Huthwaite Leisure Centre for another two years and we would have taken a £1,200 cut in our wages.

“You have balanced the books on resident’s misery and by closing the only services they have.”

Conservative Leader Ben Bradley said “It’s sad that Labour wouldn’t even engage with us on this, they didn’t even speak about our proposal and they wouldn’t even consider freezing tax and saving leisure facilities, even when the alternative is put there right in front of them. We showed how they could have spared the taxpayer a tax rise, and they wouldn’t even look at it. They are more interested in blaming Government than they are in finding real solutions, and even suggested continued rises going forward in to future years. I hope residents will remember this when it comes to Council elections in May, because Labour are simply not interested in their lives or how their decisions affect local people.”