Tax hikes and service cuts to pay for drop in county council Government funding - The Stratford Observer
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Tax hikes and service cuts to pay for drop in county council Government funding

Andy Morris 3rd Feb, 2017

A RISE in Council Tax and cuts to services will pay for the £67m drop in Warwickshire County Council’s Government funding for the next three years.

The council, which takes an 80 per cent share of Council Tax payments, agreed its budget yesterday (Thursday February 2) – announcing a near four per cent rise for the next financial year.

That means the annual bill for an average Band D property will be just under £1,300 – a rise of nearly £50.

The budget was agreed by both the leading Conservative group and the Labour group, after the Conservatives’ initial budget was rejected by the hung council.

272 jobs across the council will be lost and £1.1million will be slashed from the budget for children’s centres.

A ‘redesign’ of adult social care services will be funded by the tax rise, after the council declined a Government offer to put an extra £7.5million into adult social care over the next two years by re-phasing the tax rises over the next three years.

The council rejected Green Party members’ call to use an extra £2.7 million predicted to be generated by new housing to reduce cuts to services.

Greens also said £1million of the £1.9million extra in council tax collected in the last financial year should go towards helping those entitled to claim council tax reductions – but this was also rejected.

The budget was slammed as a ‘compromise’ by Liberal Democrat councillors, who voted against it.

Group Leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse said the budget failed to invest in and protect the county’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens, and to speed up the integration of health and social care services.

He said: “There is no published plan on how the savage programme of cuts to children’s centres will be achieved without causing irreparable harm.

“The decision to spurn the central government offer is perverse and does not serve the best interests of Warwickshire residents.”

Both Green Party councillors also voted against the budget.

Coun Jonathan Chilvers said: “For the seventh year in a row, the Conservative Government has slashed funding for local services like roads, older people care, museums and fire. The Government makes these choices in London, but refuses to recognise the impact they have on residents’ lives in Warwickshire.

“The budget deal passed had some protection for children’s centres and homeless support services which we had called for, but didn’t commit towards the key areas of improving work and school commute through investing in walking and cycling routes or helping those on lower incomes with the ongoing Council Tax rises.”

But Conservative council leader Izzi Seccombe said the budget would provide additional support for the most vulnerable while continuing to deliver economic growth.

She said: “Today’s budget will build upon the good work already done by the Conservative administration at Shire Hall since 2013.

“We will be providing further investment in Extra Care Housing which will support people in their own homes.

“We have invested £1million more to improve the safety of routes to schools, protected the Home to School Transport budget, continued the investment in LED lighting which will support our ambition to turn many of the county’s street lights back on at night, and have ensured none of Warwickshire’s retained fire-fighters will be lost.

“Despite the challenging conditions, thanks to strong and responsible leadership under the Conservatives the council is on a sound financial footing.

“We need to continue that good work in the coming years to ensure Warwickshire realises the bright future that we are building.”

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