County Council gives public choice over council tax

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Council leaders have given Gloucestershire residents a choice over county council tax rises next year, presenting three clear options for public consultation.

The unprecedented move comes as Gloucestershire faces tough budget challenges following the summer floods, with costs spiralling to around £35 million.

Cabinet today (18th December 2007) agreed to consult residents on three possible council tax options, which includes an increase to help pay for more drain clearance work to help protect against future flash flooding.

Councillor Barry Dare, Leader of Gloucestershire County Council said: “Gloucestershire County Council has an excellent track record of keeping council tax down and providing value for money services, but next year is going to be a real challenge. We’ve had lower than average amount of government grant and we’re faced with growing demand for services. We don’t want to make excuses; instead we’ve worked hard to make £12 million of efficiency savings; present a budget that keeps frontline services going, and gives local people real choice about extra spending on issues they’ve told us really matter.”

Residents are being consulted on three options:

  • Option 1 is for base budget of £333.5m and a council tax increase of 3.8%. This option contains no extra money to deal with flood prevention or drainage works.
  • Option 2 is for a budget of £335.8m and a council tax increase of 3.8% plus an additional 1.1% to create a “fighting fund” of £2.3m to investigate and begin to tackle flood prevention and drainage works.
  • Option 3 is for a budget of £340.2m and a council tax increase of 3.8% plus an additional 3.1% which would increase the “fighting fund” to £4.5m and provide for capital investment of £25m to fund major investment in flood prevention and drainage works.

Councillor Julie Girling, Lead Cabinet Member for Environment and Flood Recovery said: “We want local people to understand the problems we face following the flooding crisis in June and July, which cost the county council up to £35 million. Feedback from residents tells us that the fear of floods is greater than ever and they want real investment into flood prevention – and this includes a programme of drain clearance. As the county council for Gloucestershire, we take our leadership role very seriously and are working hard to get more money from the government to help us recover and protect ourselves for the future. Next week we will get some of the money back for what we spent during the emergency, but the Audit Commission agrees that councils need even more support from the government in emergencies. With no money available for protection, we now have to ask council taxpayers to help fund additional investment in flood prevention.”

The proposals all involve an increase in council tax of 3.8% – a figure below the current rate of Retail Price Inflation (4.2% at the end of October) and below the rate of pension increase for next year (3.9%). The budget includes provision for inflation, £18m to meet unavoidable service pressures, and £12m of efficiency and other savings. Options 2 and 3 give residents the choice of additional funding for flood prevention work.

Spending increases include:

  • £2.2m for care of older people as a result of ageing population.
  • £2.2m to respond to greater needs of people with learning disabilities.
  • £350,000 for an increase in the number of people with mental health problems
  • £1.4m for additional costs in home to school transport.
  • £200,000 for additional child protection measures.
  • £250,000 for care of children with disabilities.
  • £3.4m for waste disposal including £1.75m for landfill tax and waste growth.
  • £1.4m to pay for extra costs of social care by the independent sector.
  • £0.6m for 17 extra Police officers.

Expenditure by service is as follows (excluding the dedicated schools grant of estimated at £305 million)

Spend (in £millions)

Children & Young People – 63.941

Community & Adult Care – 126.198

Community Safety – 23.363

Environment – 52.929

Business Management – 19.438

Chief Executive Support Unit – 3.008

Technical & Corporate – 44.623

Total: 333.500

The consultation begins on 18th December and ends on 16th January 2008. The financial settlement is provisional at this stage and may well change when the final figures are announced in January. The budget will be finalised at Cabinet on 8th February 2008 and approved at Council on 20th February 2008.

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