Rise in Council Tax “inevitable” warn council chiefs
A rise in Council Tax is “inevitable” next year to protect services, warn Sheffield council chiefs.
The council has been given a small amount of money by the government and finance bosses say it’s a “slightly less awful” budget than before but have warned it is not “a bed of roses”.
David Phillips, head of strategic finance, told a meeting that the council still had a £23m gap for next year’s budget despite the funding.
“We are under a strict financial regime and for the last 10 years the budget has been difficult and demanding and we have made painful decisions in services.
“We had the government’s spending review a week ago and for the first time in 10 years it didn’t involve the government taking a chunk of money but adding some on.
“We have no protection from inflation but, finally, austerity for the moment seems to be in abeyance and we have a small amount of money coming in which helps considerably.
“It is still not a bed of roses because there are a series of reviews and cuts so don’t run away with the idea that it’s dead easy to do. It’s a slightly less awful budget than we had before.”
Mr Phillips said the council still “didn’t have enough on the table” and would have to prudently use reserves over the next four years.
“Every autumn we have said there are really big problems, we’ve still got to find more and have a big gap and extra pressures but this year we should be able to cover that gap with money from the spending review.”
Coun Sioned-Mair Richards asked about future funding. “This is semi welcome news. We were falling off a cliff but we managed to grab a branch and break our fall.
“Are we still expecting our grant or moving to this business rate model or don’t we know what happens next?”
Mr Phillips replied: “Who knows? We were due to have the fairer funding review, the business rate retention and four years spending review and all of that has been kicked back at least a year.
“You are a braver person than me if you can say who is going to be in power in 12 months time taking these decisions.
“If the Conservatives are still in power they may do some of these things and we may not do particularly well.”
Eugene Walker, director of resources, said the council was thankful for any extra funding.
“We would have been in a much worse position if we had not had this funding.
“The good news is the money the government has given us has put us back in the place we were before. It has not got any worse. We now just have to deliver rather than find more savings. It could have been a lot worse.”