Durham residents could pay more council tax to save costs

The local authority is forecasting a budget gap of £56 million over the next four years as it revealed it is currently overspending on funding its children and young people, regeneration, economy and growth departments.

This financial position was reported to the council cabinet in July, when measures were also agreed that will save the council £2.2 million next year.

Now council officials are considering new proposals to save a further £3.7 million.

Read more: The County Durham location is ranked in the top 100 towns and villages in the UK

Residents are being asked to help the council identify service areas where the remaining £6.2 million could be saved and to share their views on a council tax increase.

Cllr Richard Bell, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance, told members at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the authority was facing “inevitable pressures”. He added: “We continue to operate in an environment of significant uncertainty and financial volatility, which requires us to remain firmly in control of our budgets.”

“To put it in perspective, we spend 47 percent of our budget on adult and child social care for 2.5 percent of the population.

“It is becoming increasingly difficult to balance our budgets with the funding we receive from government and the income we are allowed to raise locally, which comes mainly from council taxes.

“That makes this another year where we have some incredibly difficult decisions to make and we have no certainty about local government funding beyond next year, which also makes it very difficult to plan ahead.”

The one per cent increase in council tax is expected to raise around £2.675 million. However, raising council tax by less than the maximum allowed would lead to a rise in the budget deficit and require further cuts to services to balance the books, the meeting was told.

Cllr Bell added: “Making decisions between council tax increases and service cuts is never easy. We fully understand the financial challenges that many of our residents face, which is why we are also proposing that we continue to protect the most vulnerable by expanding our local government tax reduction program in its existing form.”

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The scheme offers a reduction in council tax to eligible low-income residents, whether they are working, unemployed or retired, and is not capped.

“We have written to the government and the leadership of all major political parties calling for a fundamental review of the system of funding councils,” the Conservative councilor said.

A seven-week consultation on the budget changes is underway and ends on October 20. Residents can participate online or by filling out a form in person, available at libraries and customer access points.

https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/23786332.durham-residents-pay-council-tax-save-costs/?ref=rss Durham residents could pay more council tax to save costs


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