Council tax rise in Tameside is going ahead

Thursday, February 27th, 2020 8:12am

By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter @CharGreenLDR

Councillors in Tameside have approved a 3.99pc tax hike that will see bills rise by at least £39 for residents in the borough.

At a full council meeting, the budget for 2020/21 was unanimously backed by all members – including the Conservatives and Green councillor – despite a series of rows over spending priorities.

One contentious issue was the projected overspend this year of almost £8.4m on children’s social care, caused by the ‘continuing unprecedented demand’ for the service.

Tory councillors said the deficit was the result of underfunding from the town hall in the past, but Labour members said the crisis in children’s services was a ‘national scandal’ and laid the blame at the feet of the government.

Cabinet member for housing, planning and employment, Councillor Ged Cooney told the meeting: “I don’t give a toss whether we overspend in children’s services.

“If we’ve got a vulnerable child that needs help and support then we should direct that money. 

“Austerity has implications whether we like it or not.”

A council tax increase of 3.99pc – with 2pc to specifically pay for adult social care – was approved on Tuesday night’s meeting.

For the majority of people living in the borough – Band A properties – it will mean an annual increase of £39 locally, and £58 for Band D.

Moving that they approve the budget, council leader Brenda Warrington said the tax increase would provide an extra ‘£3.7m to turbo charge plans’ for Tameside’s future.

“If last year was a year of transformation, this year will be a year of delivery, it will be a year of growth,” she said.

“But we can only do that from the solid footing of a sustainable and viable financial context. 

“And ten years of austerity is not something that goes away overnight.

“Over the last six years we’ve had to save £160 million to set a legally required balanced budget.

“While we are presenting a balanced budget tonight for 2020/21 we project that even more savings will have to be found to continue setting a legal budget in future years.”

Coun Warrington (pictured below) told the chamber that £12.3m of reserves was being used to balance the books and invest in children’s social care.

She added: “We’re not bankrupt. We’ve made sure over the years that we’ve kept our heads above water and and used everything for the best of our ability and increases in council tax are part of the need to do that.”

However leader of the Tory opposition, Coun Doreen Dickinson said that Tameside was lagging behind other neighbouring boroughs, such as Oldham, Stockport and Rochdale.

“At the moment the public see their council tax increasing with very little to show for it in Tameside,” she said.

“Tameside seems to be grinding to a halt compared to their neighbours. Where is the initiative and ambition for more employment?”

She added: “The Conservative group understands the problem with children’s services and the cost involved, even though it is of the council’s own making by not adequately funding the department going back many years.”

Cabinet member for children’s services, Coun Bill Fairfoull responded that they are over budget but are engaging more in early help and developing services to give families more support. 

“This is not a children’s services issue, this is not a Tameside issue, this is a national issue,” he said. 

“Why is it happening? People are getting poorer.” 

Conservative Stalybridge South Coun Liam Billington said the council tax rise could be completely avoided if it wasn’t for ‘wasteful spending and bad decision making’.

Cabinet member for finance, Coun Oliver Ryan replied: “This is a council running on fumes and cut to the bone.

“But as this budget proves you can’t kill our aspiration.” 

A whole council budget of £205.2 million was agreed, which included plans to deliver £5.1m worth of savings in 2020/21, although this will not see cuts to council services.

But the overall bill will rise further for residents with the increase of the Greater Manchester mayoral precept to cover the cost of recruiting hundreds more police and fire officers.

It means an extra £16 for Band A properties and £20 more for Band D in the next financial year.

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