Council tax could rise for the first time in four years for South Tyneside residents

A local authority is considering raising council tax as it reaches the ‘end of the line’ in cutbacks to office jobs.

The leader of South Tyneside Council, Iain Malcolm, has said he is considering raising council tax for the first time since 2011 after accepting the Government’s freeze deal for four years in a row.

He joins Newcastle City Council in publicly declaring that a council tax rise may be on the horizon if fellow councillors vote for the change in setting their 2015-16 budgets in March.

The Labour leader, said: “I can’t give a guarantee that council tax won’t be increased in the next financial year.

“We are at the end of the line in finding these back office savings. Now we are looking at how we can find these front line services in new innovative ways. We’ve done asset transfers. We will have to have further talks with councils to see who might take the lead in certain areas.”

However he said any potential rise would fall short of 2% – the figure which the Government has said would trigger a referendum with the public.

He said: “We couldn’t afford a referendum and no council has gone for a referendum because you wouldn’t win. No one would vote for that, people would just vote no. I can’t rule out an increase because we are now at that stage.”

> But if they did vote no, surely that’s the will of the people you’re supposed to serve ? Just saying…

So far South Tyneside Council has had to make more than £100m in cutbacks to their budget, and must save a further £22m in the financial year 2015-16.

Councillor Malcolm said it is now time to turn to Holyrood in Scotland for support in gaining a fairer local government finance deal for the North East of England as much as Westminster.

He said: “What opportunities are there by looking northwards for the economy, transport and infrastructure?

“We need to have a conversation with Scotland, not just with Westminster and Whitehall. Whoever wins the election, I would expect them to do a root and branch reform of local government finance. No one really understands the formula and its open to widescale manipulation by ministers to make sure it goes to areas where they want it to go.”

He said previous talks on funding the dualling of the A1 with former Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond had been less than fruitful but that it was important to ensure communications with Scotland are maintained as the country undergoes further devolution.

Source –  Shields Gazette,  06 Jan 2015

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