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Derbyshire council taxpayers are set to pay nearly £100 extra a year

County Hall in Matlock, headquarters of Derbyshire County Council

Derbyshire council taxpayers will have to stump nearly £100 extra a year after the county’s largest authority’s financial sustainability was said to be “at real risk”.

For those living in the area, the vast majority of your overall annual council tax bill is the responsibility of Derbyshire County Council – taking in around 75 per cent of each bill.

It has now published its planned precept tax hike for the coming year, which is a maximum 4.99 per cent increase, with 2 per cent reserved purely for adult social care.

This is £73.75 a year more for a Band D property to a total county council precept of £1,551.73.

When accounting for other authorities which make up your overall annual bill (district/borough councils, the police, fire service and town/parish councils) this would amount to in the region of £96 more a year for a Band D home – and a total bill of around £2,100.

County council budget papers indicate that most homes in Derbyshire are in Bands A-C, averaging most in Band B.

Band B homeowners can expect to pay £57.36 more a year to the county council, around £75 extra when factoring in other authorities and see an overall bill of around £1,700.

The authority had to use £55 million from its rainy day reserves to balance its budget last year and is now set to use a further £72 million this year, when finance officials had strongly warned against any further use of this emergency fund.

Next year would include an current estimate of a further £21 million in reserves being used, meaning the council would be spending £148 million in just three years to balance its budget and avoid Government intervention and a formal, not voluntarily, freeze on its spending.

The council’s finance officials detail: “This is not sustainable and the council must deliver on the transformation of services, demand management and other efficiencies, to ensure future financial sustainability.

“The financial sustainability of the council is at real risk if the proposed savings and efficiencies for 2024-25 are not delivered.

“The council must ensure a continued focus on the delivery of savings, to maintain its financial sustainability.”

Cllr Barry Lewis, county council leader, said: “We continue to be upfront about the huge pressures on our budget which are greater than ever experienced before due to factors beyond our control. 

“While we have always been a financially stable and well-managed council, higher than expected inflation, rising fuel and energy costs, a continuing increase in demand for services, especially adult social care and children’s services, and an employee pay award met from local funds have all added to our hugely challenging financial position.

“To ensure we can continue to provide vital services our most vulnerable rely on, and to continue to meet our legal obligations to maintain a balanced budget, tough decisions need to be made now.

“Our lobbying of Government will continue, especially focusing on the spiralling costs of private social care placements for children, which I have been very vocal about recently. 

“Despite our lobbying and the government’s announcement of extra funding this week, we have had no choice but to put forward a number of budget savings proposals, many of which, if they go forward, will change, reduce or even stop some services we provide.”

At a county council scrutiny meeting this week, the authority’s leading officials had claimed the proposed savings are not “cuts” because they claimed services would be either maintained or improved – and delivered differently – but not reduced.

This totals £33 million in savings which need to be made by the end of March in order for the council to legally balance its budget, as is its obligation from central Government.

Meanwhile, the authority needs to make a further £40 million in cutbacks next year.

This all comes after the authority voluntarily froze spending on all but essential services in September when it had forecast a £46 million overspend. 

It also reviewed all spending on capital projects and implemented a hiring freeze on all but essential roles – primarily care positions.

Cllr Lewis continued: “For the first time in many years, we are proposing the maximum allowed rise in council tax, when we have always tried to keep it as low as possible. 

“No council leader wants to see a reduction in services or a rise in council tax, and we are acutely aware of the additional burden this is likely to place on many Derbyshire households, but we have been left with no alternative.”

Cllr Simon Spencer, the council’s deputy leader, said: “We have to do everything we can to balance our books and ensure we continue to provide services people expect and deserve, but to do that we have no choice but to put forward these proposals which, if agreed, could help us to achieve that.

“We remain in a very challenging position, made more difficult by the fact we have made £300 million of budget savings over the past 13 years and services are running at maximum efficiency levels already.”

The council’s financial woes are linked to continued increases in both demand and the cost of services for vulnerable adults and children, along with inflation and nationally-agreed pay increases, it details.

This year’s budget shows a marked reduction in future spending plans which typically would include an extensive list of projects it hopes to build or fund over the next year, including major school projects, care homes, libraries and more.

However, this time around the list is somewhat thinner. The main capital scheme this time is for the authority’s own sprawling historic Matlock headquarters to be converted into a hotel, with homes and a new, eco, smaller HQ in its grounds.

This comes after the cost of repairs and decarbonisation of the historic former spa totalled £172 million.

The council’s most expensive infrastructure project, the Chesterfield to Staveley Regeneration Route, was paused indefinitely in November.

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