BUDGET: Council tax set to rise by 5% again in Peterborough to help tackle huge deficit and social care costs

Coun David Seaton and Peterborough City Council Leader Coun. John Holdich with the 2018/9 budget EMN-171011-165633009

Council tax is set to rise by five per cent in Peterborough for the second year running as the city council tries to get to grips with a £19 million deficit and rising social care costs.

The steep rise in council tax - of which three per cent (nearly £2 million) would be ringfenced for adult social care - was announced by the Conservative-run council today (Friday, November 10) as part of its first set of 2018/19 budget proposals.

The council has also revealed that it is putting on hold its decision to run a Peterborough Lottery, while another £1.6 million needs to be found due to rising homelessness in the city, which is seeing more people being put up in B&Bs.

That £1.6 million figure is set to rise to £5.7 million April 2021.

The council has seen a 200 per cent rise in the number of homeless families requiring temporary accommodation in the past two years.

Council leader Cllr John Holdich has recently warned that essential services in Peterborough face cuts due to the Government removing 80 per cent of its main funding grant.

He said: “I have said it many times and I will say it again - we are no longer sufficiently funded by government to provide the services we want to deliver for residents and the 2018/19 budget will be the most challenging yet.

“This is why I have committed to lobbying government for extra funding and already have meetings set up with our MPs and have been in discussion with the Local Government Association to begin to get our voice heard.”

Other announcements in the budget include:

. A £22,000 investment to set up a scheme which will introduce fines for drivers who park on verges or pavements in certain areas of the city

. A £94,000 investment to recruit two environmental health officers to undertake food safety work due to an increase in businesses that require inspection

. Sixteen more schools expected to convert to academies. The council will charge the schools £10,000 each to convert, which after additional costs will bring in £149,000

. An extra £1 million is expected to be taken in from council tax this year than previously forecast

. A saving of £300,000 from charging a fee to other local authorities to make use of the council’s highway services contract

. Investments of £14,000 for St George’s Community Hydrotherapy Pool and £50,000 for arts group Metal

. A previously budgeted saving of £500,000 by increasing the agile working of staff has had to be removed as officers have had growing workloads to contend with.

The proposals will save more than £3 million for the council, leaving a deficit of £15.7 million still to be tackled.

The council is setting its budget in two phases, with the second and final set of proposals to be released in early January.

Over the next three years the council needs to save a total of £39.7 million.

Cllr Holdich added: “The next few years pose no easy task, however even during the most challenging circumstances the council has ever faced we have remained committed to our priorities and Peterborough has made huge strides forward.

“We’ve invested significantly in creating new school places in recent years, we’re leading the comprehensive Fletton Quays redevelopment and attracted significant external funding to support the city’s growth including a number of major transport projects.

“We will continue to invest in the city and deliver a range of services. We’ll do this by developing new ways of generating income, bidding for external funding, delivering services more innovatively and continuing to promote the city to businesses.

“Phase one begins to put the flesh on the bones of this commitment and I would now ask residents to look at those proposals and tell us what you think.”

Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: “In Peterborough we continue to be at the sharp end of the Government’s austerity programme with our Revenue Support Grant decreasing by 80 per cent between 2013/14 and 2019/20.

“To put this into context, this is similar to the main wage or wages coming into your household reducing by 80 per cent. You could cut out the items that are not essential such as meals out and new clothes, but how would you still pay for all those essential items such as heating, water and food?
“This is the challenge which has faced the city council and all local authorities in recent years - a challenge that shows no sign of reducing. We have cut back on the services that we have an option to provide, the non-essentials you might say, and are now faced with the difficult task of having to provide the services that we legally have to, which our residents rely upon, with an ever reducing budget.

“This first phase of proposals is a starting point which we will be building upon in phase two, launched in January. For now we want people to read these proposals, understand the very difficult financial situation that the council faces, and tell us what they think as part of the consultation.”

People are able to view and comment on the proposals by visiting the council’s website - www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget.

Hard copies of the consultation document will also be available from the receptions of the Town Hall (in Bridge Street) and Bayard Place (in Broadway) and all city libraries.

The consultation will close on Thursday, November 30.

The cabinet will consider comments on Monday, December 4 and a meeting of the Full Council will debate the phase one proposals on Wednesday, December 13.

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