Oldham council tax set to rise due to funding and costs pressures for local authority

THE FIRST council tax increase for the borough in three years is being considered as Oldham Council strives to find another £16.1million in savings.

OldhamCouncil_164_200The Cabinet has agreed budget proposals for the financial year 2016/7 which now go to Full Council for final approval on Wednesday, February 24.

These include measures designed to find the required savings while protecting vital services, and have been shaped by a further reduced funding settlement from Government.

Plans include an increase in Oldham Council’s element of council tax bills by 3.7 per cent, which is around an extra 66p a week for most residents in the most common Band A homes.

Two per cent of that rise would come from a new ‘precept’ announced by Chancellor George Osbourne last year to help specifically plug a gap in funding for adult social care.

The rise does not include any increases that other organisations may introduce, such as the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Authority, and Parish Councils.

However, Saddleworth Parish Council has announced that its precept, which makes up part of the council tax bill, will be frozen for a fourth year in a row.

Abdul Jabbar, Oldham Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and HR, said: “We’ve frozen council tax for the previous two years and are proposing this increase with a very heavy heart.

“Since last year the Government has scrapped a ‘freeze grant’ that was available to all local authorities that didn’t put council tax up.

“It has also now changed the way adult social care will be funded and this new model – responsible for a two per cent rise – places more responsibility onto local taxpayers.

“We’ve found £176m in savings from our budget since 2009 and last year alone had to find £35m. This is comparatively much more than many other local authorities and has put us under constant financial pressure.

“At the same time as our revenue support grant from Government has fallen we are also facing increasing costs pressures.

“These come from general inflation, the care sector, increases in the number of adults and children needing support and rising levels of need, rises in service demands as the population grows, plus core costs like national insurance and the National Living Wage.”

The local authority is working to raise money by encouraging and enabling the building of new homes and supporting businesses so it can collect more council tax and business rates.

It is also investing in services and working hard to save money by working more closely with partners like the NHS, police and fire service, and other councils.

Cllr Jabbar added: “We cannot hide from the fact that these pressures are having a real impact on all residents and services, especially our most vulnerable people.

“Services have already been cut to the bone but we remain committed to doing all we can to deliver the best quality services possible and working co-operatively with residents and partners to find even more innovative solutions.

“We ask people to help us in this work to continue make Oldham a better place. You can do your bit by helping us to keep streets clean, keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours, and to report things like flytipping and graffiti.”

Despite the reductions in the Government grant in recent years, Oldham Council is currently still reliant on it for almost half of its funding to support its revenue budget.

The Full Council meeting takes place on Wednesday, February 24 at 6pm and will be broadcast live at www.oldham.gov.uk


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