Council tax could rise by 3% in Peterborough

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Council tax could rise by three per cent in Peterborough from April.

The announcement was made in yesterday’s provisional funding settlement for local government.

Cllr David Seaton with a previous copy of the council's budget

Cllr David Seaton with a previous copy of the council's budget

However, the council cannot levy additional council tax for adult social care as it hit its limit for the precept last year.

Despite a public campaign the Conservative-run city council has not received any extra money at this time for its main government grant (Revenue Support Grant) which has been cut by 80 per cent over recent years, on top of rise in demand for services.

There was, though, better news for Cambridgeshire County Council which has not only lost its entire RSG, but was also meant to start paying the Government £7 million. That £7 million payback has now been removed.

Council tax has previously risen in Peterborough by: six per cent in 2018/19, five per cent in 2017/18 and four per cent in 2016/17 to help cover the cut in funding.

The council said that out of all unitary authorities across the country, Peterborough currently has the eighth lowest council tax.

Cllr David Seaton, Peterborough City Council’s cabinet member for resources, said: “The Revenue Support Grant allocated to Peterborough is in line with our expectations. We remain in a four year settlement and, as such, had budgeted accordingly.

“The challenges facing us are well documented, but we are continuing to deliver efficiencies, reducing the overall budget gap and moving towards sustainability.

“We will continue to watch the Government’s progression of its Fairer Funding Review closely, however, the uncertainty that all local authorities are facing requires us to find new ways of meeting our statutory obligations and protecting frontline services.

“We continue to make our case to Government that, as a growing city, we must have additional funding. We have done that through our ‘Stand up for Peterborough’ campaign and the fight continues through professional bodies and the Local Government Association who have made it very clear that extra funding is needed.”

The council’s Revenue Support Grant this year is £15.1 million, but that is due to decrease to £10.2 million in 2019/20.

However, the authority has received extra money this year in the form of - 792,000 extra social care funding, £284,000 more to help rough sleepers and £1.5 million for the integrated communities project.

Cambridgeshire County Council leader Steve Count gave a mixed welcome to the government’s funding announcement.

Cllr Count paid tribute to the support of the county’s MPs in helping the council’s efforts to reverse the plan to take £7 million from local taxpayers to be spent in other areas of the country.

But he expressed his surprise that Cambridgeshire and Peterborough remain the only devolved area of the country not to benefit from a business rate retention pilot.

“I am pleased that the Secretary of State has confirmed that he is abolishing the negative RSG, which would have seen council tax payers in Cambridgeshire in effect handing £7 million back to government to spend in other better funded areas in 2019/20 – and also that there will be more news soon about a fairer funding deal across local government as a whole,” said Cllr Count.

“But I am surprised that we are not among the 15 council areas to have been included in a business rate retention pilot – the only devolved area not to benefit from this scheme. It is clear that the voices of everyone supporting this bid simply haven’t been heard.

“As a county which sees enormous business growth in some areas, we need to be able to spread prosperity to parts of our county which struggle economically. It is vital business rates raised in the county should be available to benefit the county.”

Core government funding was around 30 per cent of the council’s service spending five years ago and this has now fallen to 13 per cent, reduced by more than £100 million a year.

Despite this demand for services has continued to rise, with increasing numbers of children requiring social care and support, demand for Special Educational Needs schools places rising along with the complexity of need, and a 20 per cent increase in the past four years of the number of residents aged 85+.