COUNCIL TAX RISE: Get set for £50 hikes

Blackpool Town Hall

Blackpool Town Hall

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Cash-strapped Blackpool Council looks set to increase council tax by 3.9 per cent in a bid to raise an extra £1.8m.

If the move goes ahead, it will be the first rise for the town’s residents from the authority in five years. It comes as town hall chiefs are forced to find savings of £25m in the 2016/17 budget.

A total of 300 jobs, including 50 contracts, are also due to be lost with areas including libraries, public health and children’s services facing cuts.

In the next financial year, the council must also meet the cost of the new living wage for its staff, and spiralling demand on adult social care.

An increase of 3.9 per cent is the maximum councils are allowed to impose and includes two per cent specifically for social care services.

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said the authority was also forced to consider the rise because of government cuts.

He said: “Blackpool Labour has frozen, or cut council tax every year since we came to power in 2011.

“Unfortunately, the Government has decided to introduce a presumption that councils will use their tax-raising powers to fund the costs of the new minimum wage levels, and the continuing costs of adult social care.

“We would have preferred the Government to have funded these new and increased burdens centrally, but they are not, so despite the fact this will place a significant extra burden on households, it is something we are being forced to consider.”

But Coun Tony Williams, leader of the Conservative group on Blackpool Council, blamed the need for a rise on “stupid investments”.

He said: “If the council had not thrown money away on investments like the Devonshire Road car park and buying the former Syndicate, it could have been more prudent.

“Now it is the people of Blackpool who will have to find the money in the form of a rise in the council tax.

“If we were in power, my objective would have been to maintain the council tax freeze for as long as possible and I wouldn’t have made the stupid investments this council has made.”

Currently the bill for an average band D property in Blackpool is £1,529.92, including precepts to pay for police and fire services.

A 3.9 per cent increase on the council’s element of the bill would be £52 per household. Most properties in Blackpool are in Bands A and B so the rise would be lower.Lancashire County Council is also proposing a 3.9 per cent increase in its council tax, for residents in Fylde and Wyre, after revealing it needs to make another £200m of savings by 2021.

But the government defended its position.

A Department for Communities and Local Government spokesman said: “Council tax bills will be less in real terms at the end of this parliament than they were in 2010.

“This government is providing a long-term funding settlement for the first time, allowing local authorities to plan with certainty.

“Councils will have almost £200bn to spend on local services, including a £3.5n social care package, over the lifetime of this parliament.”

Blackpool’s budget proposals are due to go before councillors for scrutiny before the council makes a final decision at its budget meeting on Thursday February 25.