Council tax banding review could be considered in Blackpool

Town hall funding is in the spotlight
Town hall funding is in the spotlight
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Council tax bandings in Blackpool could be reviewed as part of measures to improve the amount of revenue collected from the charge.

Council tax bandings in Blackpool could be reviewed as part of measures to improve the amount of revenue collected from the charge.

A meeting of the council's tourism, economy and resources scrutiny committee heard the council tax collection rate for 2017/18 was 91.3 per cent, up from 90 per cent the previous year with the amount collected up by £2.9m to £46.4m.

It is hoped to increase this to 97.5 per cent over a four year period.

However the cumulative arrears has risen to £16.8m compared to £15m in 2016/17.

Council finance director Steve Thompson said measures were being taken to improve the position.

He said: "We are exploring any and every option to increase collection rates. A strategy around changing average bandings in Blackpool is another option."

Two thirds of properties in the resort fall into the lowest council tax bands of A and B while very few properties fall into the highest band H.

Coun Paul Galley said investment in better housing stock should also be considered.

He said: "We can identify which streets are the worst payers in Blackpool.

"Does this support the case for investing in these houses to get a better return by either buying to demolish and rebuild, or buying to improve?"

Mr Thompson said other measures included increasing staffing levels in council tax collection.

He added: "We have looked at and talked to other authorities including Plymouth which is an example of a local authority with a similar profile and demographic to us and which has a very high collection rate.

"It is much harder to get council tax from residents on benefits who have very little disposable income."

The council tax reduction scheme, which assists people on low incomes, could also be reviewed.

Council tax bills increased this year in Blackpool by 5.99 per cent which included a three per cent precept to pay for adult social care.

Councillors also heard Childrens Services had overspent on its budget by £5.8m in 2017/18 mainly due to an increase in the number of children in council care which peaked at 549 at the end of May 2017.

By the end of March the number of looked after children had reduced to 529.

Cash from the counci's reserves was used to reduce the overspend to £3.3m.

Mr Thompson said efforts were being made to get this under control.

He said: "It is fair to say plans haven't worked as quickly as hoped but we have to give the department time to action some of these strategies.

"The indications are there is a downward trajectory. I would like it to work more quickly but we are relying on professionals to make sure it is working right and safely for the children of the town."