Monday 4 March 2024
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Nottingham

Council tax rise helps fund road repairs and adult social care

Nottinghamshire County Council plans to raise from April to fund road repair teams and support long-standing issues with adult social care.

Households will pay the authority an extra one per cent on the regular council tax precept and a further three per cent for social care from April.

It means people living in ‘Band A’ or ‘Band B’ properties, which make up about 60 per cent of all homes in Nottinghamshire, will see annual bills rise by £42.16 and £49.19 respectively.

Band C properties will see bills rise by £56.21 per year, with Band D increasing by £64.24, Band E by £77.29, Band F by £91.35, Band G by £105.40 and Band H by £126.48 over the year.

The Conservative-led authority says residents struggling with the upcoming cost of living crisis will be given support and guidance as bills surge from multiple angles.

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Councillor Richard Jackson (Con), chairman of the council’s finance committee, says the increase is needed to help the authority fund social care services and implement its recent highways review.

But he said the authority’s ‘instinct’ is to “keep council tax as low as possible”.

The council is opting not to take the full 4.99 per cent overall increase available under Government rules before it must go to a referendum.

The total rise instead stands at four per cent, with three-quarters of the increase going towards social care and the remainder on standard council services.

Cllr Jackson said: “We recognised the cost of living issues and we needed to pin the council tax element of it down as low as we could.

“But with adult social care, we needed to take the maximum levy due to all the uncertainties over it at the minute.

“It would have been irresponsible to take less than that because we need to keep the service running.”

The social care rise will be used to address problems with recruitment and retention within the care sector, he added.

It will also be used to help cut an NHS backlog in routine operations and a rise in people waiting to be discharged into social care from hospitals.

It follows the authority approving a £2 million plan this week to make 53 existing job roles permanent, which support the “increased numbers” of pending discharges.

And the separate county council tax precept, Cllr Jackson says, will “double the capacity of patching gangs” to address the state of the county’s roads.

“This will provide high-quality, permanent repairs so we’re not just filling a pothole but cutting out large surfaces and effectively resurfacing around potholes, rather than revisiting them,” he added.

Based on the number of properties in Nottinghamshire and all homes paying the increase in full, the county council element would raise an extra £5 million, while the social care rise would generate about £15 million.

But the council’s medium-term financial strategy, which budgets the authority’s finances for the next three years, doesn’t rule out more tax hikes in the future.

This, Cllr Jackson says, is because the Government is yet to decide on its fair funding formula for councils and because Whitehall only outlined grant support for 2022/23.

Under the current funding plans, the authority must make year-on-year savings totalling £29.1 million between now and 2025/26, documents confirm.

However, Cllr Jackson insists the council “is in a good position” and has tens of millions of pounds in Covid reserves “if we have a turn for the worse”.

It comes after the Conservative-led authority was urged by the opposition to “keep council tax increases to a minimum” amid surging fuel and energy bills, food costs and inflation.

The Independent Alliance submitted a motion to full council last week calling for the authority to consider the ongoing “crisis” and to support the poorest residents.

And the planned rise has led to some concern from opposition councillors.

Cllr Kate Foale, leader of the Labour group said: “This comes at a time when we have skyrocketing inflation, soaring energy bills and food costs, and a real fear of a national insurance hike.

“The majority of the council tax rise is earmarked for social care, but the Prime Minister claims to have already fixed the crisis in social care. If that’s the case, why are Nottinghamshire residents being made to foot the bill?

“I fear that, given the expected rise of inflation, the impact of this will be a real-term cut to funding for vital services that people in Nottinghamshire deserve and rely upon.”

Cllr Zadrozny (Ash Ind), who leads the Independent Alliance in County Hall, also raised concerns.

He said: “I understand why they have to make rises because they have very little place else to go.

“When their part of the [overall council tax] bill is more than 70 per cent, this is an enormous amount for people – particularly with the very clear cost of living crisis.

“At Ashfield [District Council], if I put my council tax up by the maximum amount it’s likely to mean about £3 a year more for residents.

“This is a huge difference and it doesn’t seem to be on the side of people.”

Residents struggling with rising bills can receive support from the authority, with help to be published on the council’s website.

This includes a new £5.6 million Household Support Fund, with the authority offering vouchers to assist with food, energy and water costs.

The Finance Committee will be recommended to approve the council tax plans as part of the wider budget when it meets on February 7. Final sign-off will then be sought by full council on February 24.

District and borough councils are currently in the process of setting their council tax precepts, alongside the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire Authority.

Combined with the county council’s totals, these figures produce the final total council tax bills for households.

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