Thousands of South Tyneside residents are facing a council tax rise for the first time in five years.
It has also emerged that council house rents in the borough are to rise by about £1.50 a week.
Council taxes have been frozen since 2010, despite the local authority needing to make savings of more than £100m over that time.
But, with another £22m in efficiency savings required during the coming financial year, the council’s cabinet is being recommended to agree a 1.95 per cent rise, from April this year, when it meets next week.
That would equate to an extra 32p a week, or £17 a year, for the majority of borough residents living in Band A properties.
The hike will add £350,000 to the council’s coffers.
The coming year’s budget proposals also include a recommendation for a 2.5 per cent rise in council house rents.
With the average rent currently £78 a week, that works out at an additional £1.50 a week.
More job losses are also inevitable over the next 12 months, despite 1,200 council posts having already been shed since 2010.
Negotiations over the exact number of posts to be axed are continuing, but the numbers are set to be fewer than in previous years as the authority says it is down to its core staff.
A series of value-for-money service reviews across the authority has identified further savings.
The largest of those will be £7.5m from the council’s social care budget, with a greater emphasis being put on commissioning services that enable people to live independently.
Despite those cuts, Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said a balanced budget had been prepared focused on protecting the most vulnerable in the borough and providing more services efficiently.
“This is the first increase in council tax in five years, and our council tax level remains low compared to other councils and is the second lowest in the Tyne and Wear region. I want to reassure everyone in South Tyneside that this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is necessary to ensure we can continue to provide vital services over the coming year.
“We believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of South Tyneside in the extremely difficult circumstances we face.
“We will continue to do our best for the borough despite the unfair cuts that have been handed down by the Government.”
Coun Malcolm identified one individual saving which had eradicated an annual outgoing of more than £100,000.
“We had a resident who had been in residential care since he was 18, so we did a revised assessment on him by a panel of professionals, and this gentleman was moved to a supported living scheme, so our costs for that have been reduced from £105,000 per annum to zero.
“There are other examples where we have been paying for care packages that are no longer necessary for the people concerned, so we revised the packages.
“They are still getting the care they need, but it’s been felt they have been getting an over-supply of care.
“We have also been looking at the charges we have to pay the health trusts for care.”
Stuart Reid, the council’s director of finance, said:
“If a resident has health needs, the health bodies are responsible for picking up those costs, and that’s not always been the case as historically, as a council, we have been picking up costs that we probably shouldn’t have been picking up.”
Budget proposals will be put to the cabinet next Wednesday and taken to the full council for signing off on Thursday, February 26.
WHERE THE SPENDING AXE WILL FALL
• £500,000 less on procurement of commercial services.
• £315,00 reduction in early years funding. This involves deleting two vacant posts and a reduction in management and advertising costs.
• £200,000 off street lighting programme and making use of more energy-efficient lights.
• £960,000 reduction in Change4Life budget promoting support to stop smoking, as well as encouraging healthy living and exercise.
• £433,000 saving by integrating the council’s economic growth and adult community learning teams.
• £100,000 less on the council and South Tyneside Homes’ fleets of vehicles.
HOW MUCH COUNCIL TAX YOU’LL PAY
Band A (65.2 per cent of properties): Set to pay £877.81, up from £861.02 this year, an extra £16.79.
Band B (13.6 per cent): £1,024, up from £1,004.53, an extra £19.59.
Band C (11.3 per cent): £1,170.42, up from £1,148.03, an extra £22.39.
Band D ((six per cent): £1,316.72, up from £1,291.53, an extra £25.19.
Band E (2.4 per cent): £1,609.32, up from £1,578.53, an extra £30.79.
Band F (one per cent): £1,901.93, up from £1,865.54, an extra £36.39.
Band G (0.5 per cent): £2,194.53, up from £2,152.55, an extra £41.98.
Band H (0.1 per cent): £2,633.44, up from £2,583.06, an extra £50.38.
Source – Shields Gazette, 04 Feb 2015
Mayor Norma Redfearn has revealed that North Tyneside Council will keep council tax rates at the same level for the third year running.
Cabinet members confirmed their final budget proposals at an extraordinary meeting yesterday (Thursday) which will now go to full council next month.
However, the authority is still facing a cut to their budget over the next three years.
Mrs Redfearn said:
“North Tyneside Council has had to cope with massive government cuts which mean we have to remove a further £40m to £46m from our budgets over the next three years, in addition to the cuts of £29m already achieved over the last two years.
“I have kept the council tax increase to zero percent for the last two years, saved £29m in efficiency savings and through sound financial management ensured that the council has under spent its budget for the last two years.
“For the third year running I can announce that I will not be increasing council tax levels.”
Proposals drawn up set out £14m of efficiencies without impacting on frontline services, with officials saying no leisure centres or libraries will close while bin collections will remain weekly.
There will be increased investment in roads and pavements; continued regeneration of borough town centres; progress on regenerating the seafront and Whitley Bay; development on the Swans site; and building more affordable homes.
Mrs Redfearn added:
“With the level of cuts imposed on the council, not all services can continue in their present form. However, this budget seeks to protect those services residents have told me are important to them.
“In addition this budget will also see a continuation of our investment in North Tyneside to deliver regeneration at the coast and in our town centres, bring more jobs to the borough, build more affordable housing and make this a well connected borough in terms of our infrastructure.
“I will also continue to work to support local businesses and encourage inward investment which has resulted in thousands of new jobs being created in the last two years.”
The council is continuing to streamline it organisation, reducing management costs by £2m and lowering energy consumption.
The proposals will be presented to council on February 5.
Source – Whitley Bay News Guardian, 30 Jan 2015
Council owned buildings could close and managers salaries worth £2m axed as an authority attempts to cut £40m over the next three years.
Children’s creches will only be targeted at those most in need and nursery provision will be up for review as part of proposals agreed by North Tyneside Council.
However money has been set aside to contribute towards the £1m redevelopment of St Mary’s Island to refurbish the lighthouse and cottage as part of a council wish-list of future capital projects.
At a meeting of North Tyneside Council’s Cabinet a draft budget plan was presented – the Creating a Brighter Future programme.
The council hopes to save £1.2m by reviewing its services for under fives, £1m is also proposed to be pulled from their early intervention health budget, while they envisage a further £3m could be saved by creating better links with the NHS.
Around £600,000 is also hoped to be saved by bringing staff together to work in shared offices and shutting down buildings when they are no longer needed.
Elected Mayor, Norma Redfearn, said the budget proposals for 2015 to 2018 were designed to ensure children are prepared for school and teenagers prepared for work.
“The challenges we face as a local authority are huge and I have listened very carefully to residents who have told us what their priorities are, so we target resources where needed and made sure that we make every pound count when we spend it.”
The council has to deliver between £40m and £46m of savings over the next three years, with £14.245m of that required in 2015/16. This is on top of the £28.79m of savings it has delivered over the last two years.
However they also have a list of proposed capital projects planned over the next three years which cabinet members were asked to agree to on Monday night.
They include a further £2m allocated to regeneration in Whitley Bay, which has come from another source, and putting in £1.22m to a £14.9m pot to redevelop land at the former Swan Hunter shipyard.
Councillor Redfearn said:
“We will also deliver a multi-million pound investment programme to regenerate key areas across the borough – Whitley Bay’s Spanish City Dome and seafront, the former Swan Hunter site in Wallsend, 3,000 new affordable homes in the next ten years and the North Tyneside Living scheme to provide top quality new sheltered homes for 900 of our older residents.”
Residents can provide their feedback on the new budget proposals from early December by going to the Council’s website at http://www.northtyneside.gov.uk .
The consultation will be open until the end of January.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Nov 2014