A four per cent rise in council tax, costing the average household an extra £35 a year, has been included in the final Peterborough City Council budget proposals for 2016/17.
The Conservative-led council is also increasing charges at seven of its car parks but at the same time is spending £100,000 to re-introduce a spring clean in all city wards.
The announcements come with the council having to find a further £4.5 million of savings than it had budgeted for just two months ago, but the council says its latest proposals offer no reduction in services to residents.
In total, the council is saving £24.1 million to balance its budget after another year of belt-tightening with its government grant now down by nearly 50 per cent (£54 million) in the past six years.
Today’s announcement (Friday, January 29) is the second part of the council’s budget-making process with £12.1 million of savings having already been agreed by councillors at the end of last year.
The latest proposals, though, are much more eyecatching than those agreed in December and include an expansion to Vivacity’s Premier Fitness leisure centre in Hampton and to Jack Hunt School in Ledbury Road, while council staff will soon have their annual pay rises based on performance rather than come into effect automatically.
In addition, the council has restructured its capital debt for the second time in the last couple of months which will mean more than £3 million of short-term savings but result in added expenditure overall.
The council tax rise, though, is the most striking aspect of the entire budget. It has been frozen for four of the past five years but this time the council has decided to increase it by the maximum amount allowed by the government.
The Conservative administration is allowing councils up and down the country to raise council tax by two per cent with a further two per cent allowed if the money levied is solely used to fund adult social care.
This will be used to cater for a growing number of elderly people with the council predicting that between 2010 and 2021 the number of people aged 85 and over will increase by 52 per cent on top of a growing number of people with dementia.
The proposals mean that that annual charge for people living in a Band B property in Peterborough - which is the average property in the city - will increase by 67p per week with overall expenditure rising from £877.36 to £912.45 over the 12 months.
For Band D properties, council tax will rise by 87p per week - an increase from £1,128.03 to £1,173.15 per year.
A further increase in council tax could also come if the police and fire services, and parish councils, decide to increase the contributions they receive from the charge.
However, the council insists its residents still pay one of the lowest rates of council tax in the country.
Elsewhere, parking charges will see day-time fees increased in all car parks except Bishop’s Road, Wirrina, Wellington Street and Riverside (Key Theatre), while 30 minute charging periods are being removed except for Car Haven.
An extra 50p for stays of just an hour are the biggest increase for motorists aside from bigger charges for coach parking.
Evening parking charges at council car parks will remain at £1.50 for any period between 5pm and 7am and residential parking permits will stay at the current rate.
The majority of council car parks have not seen an increase in charges since 2010, but the extra £110,000 expected to be raised annually from the parking rise is still being recorded as a loss of £80,000 in the next year by the council.
This is because an automatic increase in car park income has been built into the budget since 2010 but fees have not risen as expected.
Councillor John Holdich, leader of the council, said: “To deliver a budget with service improvements, rather than reductions, is the product of continued hard work to do the best for residents and the city as whole. However, the council, like all of local government and the public sector, has many challenges still to overcome in future years.
“We have frozen council tax for four of the last five years. If we hadn’t, a typical Band D homeowner in Peterborough would be paying £116 more on their bill by now.
“But in order to protect and improve services, especially the care we provide to the elderly and most vulnerable in the city, we are asking residents to pay more from next year.
“That will mean a rise of between about 70 to 90 pence a week for most residents. However, we are continuing to protect those on the lowest income by making no changes to our Council Tax Support Scheme.
“In addition, we are introducing a Hardship Fund to help those who find themselves in difficult circumstances.”
Further budget proposals could see the council create a housing joint venture company with a third party to build homes in Peterborough, and potentially outside the city.
And £100,000 has been put back into bus services after £500,000 was cut from its £1.1 million budget in 2013.
The routes which will see the benefits of the additional money will be: Service 20 (Stanground-Oakdale Avenue-Hampton-Orton), Service 21 (Fengate-Showcase Cinema-Newark Sainsbury’s/Newark Avenue-Garton End Road) and Service 22 (Fulbridge Road-Werrington-Rural areas).
The further £4.5 million increase in the total budget deficit for 2016/17 comes from new financial pressures such as a levy to fund apprenticeships, statutory testing in all council buildings, and rising costs in adult social care arising from new legislation regarding deprivation of liberty.
Cllr David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: “We are committed to ensuring that the services we deliver are improved rather than cut back. Through strong financial management, and taking difficult decisions early on, this is exactly what we have achieved for residents in this budget.
“There is much more work to be done and the financial challenge for councils is constant, but we know that local authorities must become more self-sufficient.
“That is why we are focused on achieving efficiency through innovation - generating income in a variety of ways - and driving growth in the city.
“I am especially pleased that we are proposing to start building houses, to provide homes for residents as well as generating income to protect services.
“We have been unable to propose a council tax freeze again this year, in part because the government is no longer offering the freeze grant we have used in previous years, and due to the increasing demand on services and continued reduction in funding.
“By raising council tax now we can continue to protect the most vulnerable in this city as well as maintain, and improve, the services we deliver for all residents.”
The first £12.1 million of budget savings agreed late last year were largely tackled from additional income from new homes and business rates.
A public consultation on the latest budget proposals will begin today and last until 5pm on Monday, March 7. Two days later councillors will then vote on the proposals.
To see the latest budget proposals visit the council’s website - www.peterborough.gov.uk - while hard copies and a questionnaire will be available at the Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city’s libraries by February 8.