Friday 23 February 2024
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Nottingham

Calls to limit possible 4.99% council tax rise amid concerns over ‘cost of living crisis’

Opposition councillors have called on Nottinghamshire County Council to limit any council tax increases in April amid concerns over a “cost of living crisis”.

The authority is going through its budget-setting process and will decide in the coming weeks whether to increase its council tax precepts.

Under government rules, local councils can legally increase their standard precept – used to fund day-to-day services – by a maximum of 1.99 per cent without calling a referendum.

Upper-tier authorities like the county council can also increase the separate social care precept by one per cent in April.

However, council documents show authorities can also carry forward any increases to the social care precept from previous years, where the council did not take advantage of a maximum three per cent rise available.

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Last year Nottinghamshire County Council increased its standard council tax precept by 1.99 per cent and raised the social care bill by one per cent.

It means the authority can increase council tax by as much as 4.99 per cent from April – 1.99 per cent for the standard bill, one per cent for this year’s social care precept and the remaining two per cent from last year’s bill.

But it comes amid rising concerns over the cost of living for households in the UK.

Experts suggest household gas and electricity bills could soar from the spring after the cost of wholesale fuel soared in the autumn, with suggestions bills could rise by as much as £1,000 per year.

Concerns have also been raised about the cost of food in supermarkets, the price of fuel at petrol pumps, rising inflation and the upcoming 1.5 per cent rise in National Insurance.

And opposition members at County Hall believe residents will be hit hardest by the crisis, urging the Conservative-led council to consider the upcoming issues when setting the tax.

Councillor Steve Carr (Lib Dem), who represents Bramcote and Beeston North, said:  “Many residents will face the stark choice of feeding their families, heating their homes or paying their council tax.

“In Nottinghamshire, bills are rising, inflation is rising, fuel poverty is rising, child hunger is rising and pensioner poverty is rising.

“We are asking the Tories who run County Hall to keep council tax as low as possible.  If that means dipping into reserves they should dip into their rainy day fund. Residents need help now.”

Cllr Jason Zadrozny (Ash Ind), who represents Ashfields division, added: “Literally everything is going up, from energy prices going through the roof, food prices rocketing and fuel prices pricing poorer residents off the road.

“Nottinghamshire County Council can do something to help and we urge the Conservatives who run the council to do their bit to help residents.”

The councillors will be submitting a motion to the full council meeting on January 20 calling for the authority to “keep council tax rises to a minimum”.

It will also urge the council to “consider the impact of the cost of living crisis when setting council tax”.

Nottinghamshire County Council says it appreciates the “financial pressures facing individuals and families” as a result of the cost of living but will be working in the coming weeks to set a balanced budget.

It follows what many councils described as a “higher-than-expected” grant settlement from the Government, which has increased council spending power by 6.9 per cent on average.

Mansfield District Council had planned to increase its precept by the maximum amount but has since scrapped the plan following the Government grant announcement.

Cllr Richard Jackson (Con), chairman of the county council’s finance committee, says the authority is yet to receive confirmation on the final settlement grant from Whitehall.

He was unable to confirm whether the tax will rise but said the budget-setting process will consider “a range of factors”.

“I absolutely appreciate the financial pressures facing individuals and families as a result of the increased costs of living,” he said.

“As a council, our duty is to set a balanced budget each year to enable us to deliver the sustainable and high-quality frontline services which are expected of us by the people of Nottinghamshire.

“We will work hard over the coming weeks to develop a budget that works for the whole of Nottinghamshire, taking into account a range of factors including the money we receive as a part of the final local government settlement grant which has yet to be confirmed.”

The final budget containing any tax rises will be reviewed by full council on February 24.

Nottinghamshire County Council’s precepts make up about 72 per cent of council tax bills across the county.

The tax levels for the police and crime commissioner, the fire authority and individual district or borough councils, which make up the remainder of residents’ bills, are also yet to be confirmed.

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