This week saw the launch of phase 2 of the council’s budget for the next financial year. Even though the government has reduced its grant to us, and demands on the council are increasing, we are proposing no cuts to services in 2016/17.
In fact we’re planning to invest in a number of key areas including public transport, street cleaning, and our parks.
So we are proposing to continue to deliver everything we do today, and some new initiatives as well. These include a 12 week, intensive spring-clean this and every year. That means extra investment to tackle graffiti, fly tipping and other unsightly scenes across the city and in rural areas.
Part of the reason for our budget savings is the ongoing growth of the city, both in population and local business. As Peterborough grows, we gain more money in the form of business rates and council tax.
Of course, growth also puts pressure on some of our services such as schools, social care and transport.
Housing is no exception, so we’re excited about our plan to launch a joint venture company to build new homes in the city. You’ll have seen talk of the national housing crisis in the news, and as one of the country’s fastest growing cities we really need to create new housing.
The approach won’t just mean homes for Peterborough people; it will generate valuable income to support city services too.
You will have seen elsewhere in this week’s paper that a consequence of the increasing pressure on local government is that we’re having to propose an increase in council tax.
It’s only the second time we’ve done this in six years, and it hasn’t been an easy decision. But if we are to protect services, especially for vulnerable and elderly people in the city, it has to be done. The government is also not offering their freeze grant from this year, which we’ve used to help freeze council tax in four of the last five years for residents.
For most people the increase will be between 70 and 90 pence a week, or up to £45 a year.
Even with the increase, council tax in Peterborough is still one of the lowest in the country. To give you an idea, even if other councils in Cambridgeshire freeze council tax this year, our residents will still be paying the lowest rates in the county.
Rest assured that we will still be supporting the vulnerable, protecting those on the lowest incomes through the Council Tax Support Scheme. We are also introducing a Hardship Fund to help people who find themselves in difficult circumstances.
Raising council tax at this time also helps to reduce the budget deficit we will have to tackle in the coming years.
It’s important to note that phase 2 of the budget is still at proposal stage so these changes aren’t yet set in stone. We are seeking your views on everything I’ve mentioned here and more. Please get involved and share your views; take a look at our website or pick up a booklet at the Town Hall, Bayard Place or the city’s libraries.