Mayor of Doncaster Ros Jones confirmed that residents are set to see their council tax bills rise by nearly four per cent this year, as the cash-strapped council released its latest cuts budget of £31million this afternoon.
The council tax rise of 3.95 per cent for the 2016/17 financial year will come into force in April.
The rise comes from the Government's 2 per cent 'levy' on Council Tax, which was announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement and is in addition to the 1.95 per cent previously agreed by the Council.
The money raised through the Government’s Council Tax ‘levy’ will have to be spent exclusively on adult social care. In his Autumn Statement speech, Mr Osborne said that the taxpayer must foot the bill for growing social care needs.
He stated that it is part of the major reform the Government is undertaking to integrate health and social care by the end of this decade. Doncaster Council spends more than £130m every year on adult social care and the new ‘levy’ will raise just under £2m.
Commenting on the proposals, Mayor Ros Jones said: “No-one wants to see Council Tax go up by nearly 4 per cent, but the government has left us with little choice.
"At the same time as massively cutting our budgets, the Chancellor has made it clear that he expects us to raise more money towards increasing social care costs by putting up Council Tax. Without it we risk not being able to provide vital services in the future.
Under the proposals, the total Council Tax bill for a Band A property would rise by just over £30 per year or 58p a week.
Mayor Ros Jones first outlined her three year budget plan to fix a £109m budget gap in February 2014 - something Mrs Jones claims has been caused by 'government cuts and rising costs'.
This equates to a reduction of more than £305 for every man, woman and child in Doncaster.
In her budget proposals for the 2016/17 financial year, the Mayor says finances can be saved to meet the budget gap by reshaping services, through pension and staff savings, and income generation.
The proposals also include a one percent reduction in council house rents from April 2016 which is part of a national agreement.
This includes the continued roll-out of so-called 'modernisation projects' to help save money, such as installing new energy saving LED street lights and introducing more effective street cleaning and grass cutting equipment.
In today's budget announcement the Mayor says that despite the difficult budget situation, the council must also 'remain focused on key priorities for Doncaster', and in particular the creation of more, well paid jobs, and ensuring that residents are supported to access the new opportunities that are being created.
Looking ahead, the Mayor has laid out her plan for how she believes the borough can continue to grow and make the most of national ground-breaking initiatives such as the National College for High Speed Rail and completion of the airport link road regeneration scheme.
Investing in better education, housing and the borough’s transport projects also feature in her proposals.
More affordable homes would be built in 2016/17 with 179 being planned, 330 new primary school places created and the scheme to replace the borough’s streetlights with more efficient and modern versions will continue amongst other investments totalling £316m until 2020.
“I believe these budget proposals pull together what we need to achieve in the final leg of this three year journey. I have been clear from the start of this financial plan that the council must live within its means and do the best it can for local people, communities and businesses,” said Mayor Ros Jones.
“Since I became Mayor, the Council has come out of Government intervention and we have put it back on an even keel. I am determined to ensure that the council continues to be well-run and carefully financially managed in difficult times, and be as efficient and effective as it can be. We will continue to redesign our services so they help the people who need them, harness modern technology and work more with our partners, the community and the voluntary sector.
“Let’s be clear the pain has not gone away nor will it - we have four more testing years of challenges ahead. We will have less money to spend and even less coming from the Government which will have almost totally stripped away Doncaster’s grants by 2020. I believe my proposals will get us through to the end of a difficult time whilst supporting Doncaster and its future.”
The Mayor has also made it clear that 'further difficult decisions' lie ahead, after the Government confirmed its cuts will now continue until 2021.
This means an extra £63m will need to be cut from the Council budget between 2017 and 2021.
The Mayor’s proposals will be discussed at Full Council on 1 March 2016. They can be viewed online here.