Peterborough council tax rise and business rates boost help plug large budget deficit
Council tax in Peterborough is set to rise again to help plug the city council's large budget deficit.
Taxpayers will almost certainly see a three per cent rise to their bills from April as the council looks to wipe out its forecast £8.2 million deficit for 2019/2020.
The Conservative-run authority has seen its main government grant slashed by 80 per cent in the last seven years to just £10 million, and there is more pain ahead with the council predicting a £18.4 million deficit in 2020/21, and £20 million in 2021/22.
The proposed council tax rise follows the announcement that the police and fire precepts are also expected to increase, as the cash-strapped emergency services seek extra money.
In better news, though, the council is now expecting to make an extra £1.3 million in business rates in 2019/20 than previously forecast, with a further £1.5 million in total over the following two years.
This includes growth from the Roxhill Peterborough Gateway site, a 180 acre distribution and manufacturing park in Haddon which is currently under construction. Some units on the site are already in operation, with more coming online in 2019/20. Hundreds of new jobs are due to be created.
Council leader Cllr John Holdich said: “For the past seven years we have had to find sizable savings, which do not reflect our city’s growth rate.
"This coupled with rising national demands has meant we have had to do far more with far less money. This year alone we have saved £23.6 million.
“Year on year we have achieved these savings by being efficient, effective and continuing to generate additional income. We continue to do everything we can to protect services, ourcity’s infrastructure and growth in what is a challenging landscape. We have left no stone unturned.”
The council is setting its annual budget over three phases as it continually seeks to make savings.
The first stage in July included proposals to set up separate parking and environmental crime enforcement teams.
The second stage in December included proposals to cut subsidised bus routes and save around £1 million from the adult social care budget.
The council tax rise, if approved by councillors, would bring in an additional £770,000 a year for the council.
The average property in Peterborough is in Band B for council tax. Residents in these properties will see the city council precept in their council tax bill rise by £30.35.
Residents living in a Band D property will see an annual increase of £39.03.
The three per cent increase is the maximum the council could have set.
The authority previously increased its share of council tax 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 government funding, although much of this was ringfenced for adult social care.
The Peterborough Telegraph revealed in December that residents living in Band D properties have seen their annual bill rise by £199 in four years.
Band B property holders have seen their annual bill rise by £155 over the same period. Those figures include the precepts for Peterborough City Council, police and fire services.
There are currently just under 86,000 homes in Peterborough. Average banding of properties in the city is Band B based on the 1991 property valuations - which is lower than the national average which is Band D. All valuations are undertaken on this basis.
This affects the revenue the council receives. For instance, moving a property from Band B into Band D would bring the council an extra £290 a year.
Leader of the council's Labour group Cllr Shaz Nawaz criticised the Conservatives for poor education performances in the city, as well as their performance in tackling homelessness and cutting down on fly-tipping, accusing them of wasting taxpayers' money.
He added: "The Conservatives have taken us from weak and wobbly to desperate and depressing. The lack of strategic vision for Peterborough is prevalent through the budget. The Conservatives do not have a sustainable plan. They are reactive at best.
"They do not have any clear plans for 2020/21 and 2021/22. This is because they lack inspiration, initiative and the imagination to radically improve the lives of residents."We need a budget which focuses on the needs of the city. One which aligns with a strategic vision to make the city a much better place. The Labour group will do just that when we launch our transformative manifesto in the coming weeks."
Leader of the council's Werrington First group Cllr Steve Lane said: "Our council officers have managed to budget this year by saving £23.6 million through efficiency and innovation without cuts to services or redundancies. Unfortunately for them, work continues to meet a similar pressure in future years, and Peterborough is not alone with striving to deliver balanced budgets.
"Many local authorities have lost over 50 per cent of the government funding they used to receive in 2010, and there is no sign of that pressure being eased. When will Government wake up to the fact that if it wants local authorities to have at least a fighting chance to be more self-sufficient, it must invest to provide them with some ability to create their own economic growth and well-being?"
Leader of the council's Liberal Democrat group Cllr Nick Sandford said: "This budget does not reflect what we as Liberal Democrats would want to put forward."
He also criticised the council for releasing the proposals at 5pm on a Friday.
Members of the public can have their say on the budget proposals by completing an online consultation questionnaire at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget.
Hard copies of the budget proposals document and questionnaire will be available at Town Hall and Bayard Place receptions and in each of the city’s libraries by the formal launch ofthe consultation at 9am on Monday, January 28.
The consultation will close on March 4 at 5pm. The Cabinet will consider comments on Monday, February 25 and Full Council will debate the proposals on Wednesday, March 6.
Further budget articles will appear at www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk over the weekend.