Tax hike needed to cover cost of cuts

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall
11
Have your say

Government ministers have been accused of lying over funding cuts to public services that could leave council taxpayers footing the bill.

Blackpool residents face tax hikes from the council and police as both services look to balance the books.

Cash-strapped Blackpool Council, which last week revealed 150 jobs will go as it looks to save £18.7m next year, will see its central Government funding fall by more than £6m next year.

Communities secretary Sajid Javid yesterday announced the cap on council tax hikes will be raised next year, meaning even the lowest rate taxpayers in Blackpool could see bills rise by almost £50 if town hall chiefs take advantage of the rule change.

Meanwhile, Lancashire Police will lose £2.5m in 2016/17, on top of the £1m cuts from the budget this time last year, police and crime commissioner (PCC) Clive Grunshaw said.

But with the Home Office insisting police budgets have been protected – because a top-level tax hike would plug the gap – Mr Grunshaw called for ministers to come clean, saying: “It’s just not true.”

Policing minister Brandon Lewis said figures showing the force will see its budget rise by £600,000 – 0.2 per cent – were based on an assumed two per cent council tax precept rise.

Mr Grunshaw said: “The Government needs to start telling it like it is. In Lancashire we have had to save £76m a year and we have significant savings to find by 2020.

“We are beginning to see a rise in crime in our area along with rising demand as health services and councils are scaled back due to their funding issues. To suggest that more cuts won’t have an impact on the future of policing in our area is not realistic.”

Residents could face a further one per cent increase in their council tax next year to pay for adult social care on top of a 3.99 per cent increase already proposed.

The move would raise another £450,000 but take the total council tax rise to 4.99 per cent.

The government agreed yesterday to allow councils to increase the precept.

Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “There are a number of other things the government could have done to tackle the social care crisis, for example a much more significant central government grant.

“But they have given us the power to raise another £450,000 at most in the next two years and all of that burden falls on the council tax payers of Blackpool. My instinct is we will have to have to do that.

“What I am certain of is if we don’t do it and I have to go to Downing Street and say the council is in financial difficulty the first thing they would ask is why didn’t we use the 
council tax.”

Blackpool Council’s executive agreed yesterday to go out to consultation on the 2016/17 budget which will see 80 workers made redundant and cuts of £18.7m.

But yesterday’s announcement means councils can levy an extra one per cent for social care, meaning bills could soar by almost 5 per cent – close to £70 for band D properties.

The PCC and fire service also have the power to increase their share of council 
tax.

Mr Grunshaw has now launched a public consultation to gauge residents views on a possible increase to the police precept of around 6p or 16p per week for band D properties.