Council tax is set to rise by four per cent for a second straight year in Peterborough, with another four per cent rise also pencilled in for 12 months down the line.
Cash-strapped Peterborough City Council has decided to increase council tax by the largest amount possible for its 2017/18 budget as it tackles an £18.8 million deficit.
And the authority has also declared its intention to do the same for 2018/19 when it is predicting a deficit of £17.8 million following huge cuts to its government grant.
Other announcements for next year’s budget include a £48,000 reinvestment to provide attendant cover in Central and Itter parks during the winter, and a pay rise of £132,500 for lawyers as the council looks to stop them leaving to neighbouring authorities which pay more for legal advice.
A £186,000 rise in councillors’ allowances and a £15 million investment to buy and land property in North Westgate - to try and kickstart the derelict site’s regeneration - have already been revealed by the Peterborough Telegraph.
Councillor David Seaton, council cabinet member for resources, said: “We know that council tax rises are never popular and in previous years we have gone to great lengths to not ask residents to pay anything more.
“However, we hope residents understand why we are proposing an increase, as the alternative is having to make even more savings which will inevitably lead to service reductions or some services being removed altogether.”
The proposed four per cent increase would mean that the Band D council tax charge would rise from £1,173.04 to £1,219.84 per year - an increase of £46.80.
The average property in Peterborough is in Band B, meaning council tax would rise from £912.37 to £948.76 per year - an increase of £36.39.
Overall, the council will raise roughly £2.5 million more revenue from the council tax increase, but half of that is only allowed to be spent on adult social care under government rules.
The council decided to increase council tax by four per cent last year, having frozen it for four of the five years preceding that.
It is now also planning a four per cent rise in its 2018/19 budget, which if approved would mean council tax would have risen by 12 per cent over three years.
Councillor John Holdich, leader of the council, said: “Year after year we are faced with the unenviable task of having to provide more services for an ever growing population with less and less money.
“To put it into perspective, in the past six years we’ve seen our government funding cut by £54 million, which equates to nearly 50 per cent of our government grant. At the same time our population is growing and, for example, between 2010 and 2021 it’s predicted that the number of people aged 85 and over is set to increase by 52 per cent.
“These phase one budget proposals once again ensure that services for our most vulnerable residents are protected. We have also listened to residents and put money back into the budget to be able to reintroduce annual shrub cutting.
“I’m particularly pleased that we are proposing to use capital funding to work towards our vision of a regenerated North Westgate.
“It is becoming increasingly clear that the days of councils simply providing services is long gone. The Government has told us that the grant they give us will go and we have to, like all local authorities, move towards self-sufficiency.
“We have a vision to achieve this by being an enterprising and innovative organisation - selling council services to other local authorities to generate income, continuing to take the dividends from growth and investing to make savings in the long-term.
“We still have tough challenges ahead. However, with a clear vision for the future and careful financial management we believe we will see the city continue to develop into the strong and vibrant community we all want.”
The council has what it calls a ‘grant equalisation reserve’ of £11 million which comes from extra savings made from last year’s budget.
It is budgeting to spend almost £9 million of that for 2017/18 to tackle the deficit. However, the council hopes to identify further savings before the budget is approved in April which would allow it to spend less of that reserve.
Cllr Seaton added: “We have taken many tough decisions in the past few years and I have no doubt there will be more to come. However, these budget proposals are the product of continued hard work in order to do the best for our residents and I believe they provide a platform for continued growth in the city.
“Our use of reserves and our plans to bolster this safety net for future tough years ahead illustrate our strong financial management for the benefit of the city and I believe these budget proposals show how successful that approach has been.”
The current proposals are part of a two-phase process to set the 2017/18 budget.
The council’s cabinet will consider the first phase proposals at its meeting on Monday, November 7.
Comments received up to 5pm on Thursday, December 1 will be considered by the cabinet at its meeting on Monday, December 5.
Full Council will then consider the phase one proposals on Wednesday, December 14.
Phase two proposals will be published in January for consultation. The council will then consider these phase two proposals at its meeting on Wednesday, March 8, 2017.
People can take part in the budget consultation by visiting the council’s website at www.peterborough.gov.uk/budget. Included is a link to the budget proposals document and an online questionnaire.
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 of the consultation on Monday, November 7.