Notts County Councillors have voted to increase council Tax by 1.99 per cent.
The rise – an extra 38p per week on the average bill – has come as result of the council trying to save some of its services in the face of a £154 million budget shortfall, caused by unprecedented cuts in Government funding.
The council’s finance and property committee recommended the increase, which will raise more than £15 million over the next three years, to put towards the savings it needs to make to balance its books by 2018.
More respondents (45 oer cent) to the council’s budget consultation backed a 1.99 per cent increase in Council Tax than any of the other options, which were for increases of three, four or five per cent.
Coun David Kirkham, chairman of the finance and property committee, said: “When we began work on budgeting for the next three years, it soon became clear we were going to be left with no choice other than to increase Council Tax because of the severe and prolonged cuts in funding for local services by the Government.
“The £154 million we are being forced to cut is a huge sum of money – about a quarter of the entire budget we need to keep our services at current levels.”
“A 1.99 per cent increase will raise more than £15 million which will go directly towards saving some of the vital frontline services and jobs which would have been lost.”
“Any increase in Council Tax is regrettable, but we believe that the majority of residents will accept paying the extra 38p per week on average, if it means that some of the services to the most vulnerable in our communities can be protected.”
The County Council will set its budget at the Full Council meeting on 27th February.
Between now and then, councillors will consider changes to their initial budget proposals to take into account the views of thousands of Notts residents who took part in the Budget Challenge consultation.
The council received nearly 38,500 responses to the consultation, making it one of the biggest ever carried out by the authority and what is thought to be one of the largest responses anywhere in the country.
Notts residents were asked for their views on where they thought savings could be made and what they thought the Council’s priorities should be, in addition to 50 specific budget proposals.
The Budget Challenge consultation lasted for 20 weeks and was delivered entirely in-house at a cost of £8,700.
Proposals which received most opposition were savings to the supporting people budget and changes to employment services for people with learning difficulties
Proposals which received most support were a reduction in the councillors’ Divisional Fund and renegotiation of the waste management contract.
Coun Kirkham continued: “We asked the people of Notts to have their say on our budget and what our priorities should be over the coming years and they responded in their thousands.”
“The number of responses we received is comparable with the biggest consultations anywhere in the country and we are extremely grateful to everyone who completed our questionnaire, signed a petition, wrote in, emailed or shared their views on Facebook and Twitter.”
“The scale of the cuts in Government grants we are facing means that we have no choice but to make significant reductions in our services, which we are extremely sorry about.”
“However, we have been listening intently to what people have told us during the consultation and we are determined to bring forward changes where we can, especially in services affecting the most vulnerable.”
The budget proposals are in addition to 70 further measures, already approved, which aim to improve efficiency.”
“These include a greater use of technology, investing in energy saving measures to reduce bills, cutting back-office functions and sharing some services with other councils.”