Council Tax rise to protect key local services

Faced with massive cuts in Government funding, Richmond Council is forced to put up Council Tax to protect key services that residents want.

Between 2009-2016, Richmond Council managed to freeze its Council Tax. Last year, due to a reduced Government Grant Settlement and increasing pressure on social care budgets, the Council applied the Government’s social care precept to its budget. This led to a 1.48% increase in Council Tax in 2016/17.

This year the situation is even worse. The Council is still facing reductions in Government grant amounting to 66% over 4 years. This means that, over the 4 years, it has to find savings of £31m, whilst coping with ever increasing demands for services.

This is the backdrop against which, on Thursday (23 February), Cabinet Members will discuss proposals to accept a further 2% Government precept for social care as well as a 1.99% increase in Richmond’s element of the Council Tax.

This is subject to further approval at the Full Council meeting on 28 February.

At the meeting, Members will hear how despite Government cuts, the Council has managed to already save £44.1m between 2011/12 and 2016/17. These savings have been achieved from internal restructuring, sharing of services with other organisations, procurement and contract savings and income generation. It also includes savings relating to the establishment of the Shared Staffing Arrangement with Wandsworth Council (SSA).

Cllr Geoffrey Samuel, Deputy Leader of Richmond Council, said:

“For the past few years we have been successful in keeping Council Tax frozen or low. We are always very reluctant to increase Council Tax. However, with unprecedented Government cuts to our funding, and increased pressure on social care, it simply isn’t feasible to freeze the tax any more.

“We have lost 66% of our funding over this 4 year period, confirming Richmond’s position as the lowest funded council in London. Despite this we have so far managed to find over £44m in savings.

“The Government has woken up to the huge pressures we are seeing for older people and vulnerable adults. But they expect local government to use the social care precept as a means to raise additional monies to directly fund this important area.

“However, forever increasing taxes is not a sustainable option. We now need to find a new way to deliver future services, working more collaboratively with our residents and partners. This will take time. The only way we can cover the costs of vital services for the next year is to raise Council Tax and the adult social care precept”.

– from a Richmond Council press release - 22 February 2017