Kirklees reveal council tax bombshell

RESIDENTS in Kirklees are set to face a hike in council tax – with some set to pay up to 10 per cent more. 

The rise is set to come in over the next two years as the cash-strapped council tries to boost its budget after government funding was slashed.

A report – to be considered next week by councillors – will ask for a two per cent increase in its general spend, with an additional three per cent rise for social care proposed by the government.

This will then be replicated the following year – meaning five per cent increases each time.

However the council has admitted that the hike will still not balance the books and more of its cash reserves will be needed.  In past years reserves have been used to boost council finances, but usable reserves have now fallen from £93 million to £42 million, with a further £26 million already earmarked for use.

Kirklees have admitted they still face further budget savings of £50million by 2020/21. This comes on top of huge cuts that have already been implemented by the council – meaning £104 million worth of savings will have been made by 2020/21.

Some of these have been made through cuts to areas such as museums, grass cutting, street cleaning and household waste sites.

There are also plans to make changes to children’s centres around the district and a consultation has been launched that could see some of Kirklees’ care homes privatised.

Leader of Kirklees Coun David Sheard (Lab, Heckmondwike) blamed the proposed increases on a lack of funding from government, resulting in savings having to be made.

He said: “We have reduced services across all sectors – some more visible than others, for example changing the way we collect waste to save money.

“But we continue to face our most serious ever financial challenge so many more services will be reduced, removed or taken on by other people or organisations.

“Past decisions taken in good faith are also now costing us.

“We were told that if we froze our council tax, a zero per cent rise for our residents, we would receive the cash we would have gained from a two per cent increase.

“That money has not been added into the base budget, it was to come through a grant and now that grant has been cut. It is costing us £14 million every year.

“Withdrawing revenue support grant will cost us £33 million over the next four years.

“We have made significant savings – over £120m – through efficiencies and transformation, with further savings budgeted – but even after these are applied the scale of the financial challenge is massive. Kirklees is still the eighth worst funded council nationally, and the second worst funded metropolitan council in the country per head of population.”

It is expected that around 1,000 more council jobs will be cut over the next four years as services are stripped back to the bare essentials.

Coun Sheard admitted the cuts would see a reduction in services.

“We will continue to invest in our priorities of making sure those most vulnerable are supported and we have obvious pressures in some areas like children's services where the right thing to do is to continue to invest,” he said.

“But we must focus on our top priorities and do fewer things ourselves, with partners, volunteers or community groups taking on other services they want to keep.”

The council’s cabinet will make a recommendation on Tuesday (January 31) before the full council meets on Wednesday February 15 to discuss the budget and make a final decision.

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