One per cent in council tax will not stop pressure

The County Councils Network (CCN) has warned that new freedoms to raise an additional one per cent in council tax will only raise one tenth of the amount being cut from their budgets.

Councils will be able to add a further one per cent to council tax to offset continuing reductions in core government funding. However, county leaders say that this will raise just £105 million compared to the £1 billion reduction in budgets by 2020 for the 37 county councils in the country - putting local services and leading county leaders to make ‘unpalatable’ decisions.

While the majority of county councils are likely to add on the extra one per cent, they are reluctant to do so and argue it will further entrench funding and council tax inequalities across rural shire counties. Instead, they suggest that there should be an extension of ‘transitional funding’ for the next two years to help prevent the widespread closure of frontline services and non-statutory services.

Paul Carter, chairman of the CCN, said: “Over the past seven years, shire counties have faced the toughest financial challenge of all, with rising demand for services meaning we already face a £2.54 billion funding black hole in 2020/21. This comes on top of being the lowest funded councils. The ending of essential grants this year for frontline and life-critical services means we are facing some truly unpalatable budget decisions, which will see rural bus subsidises all but end, new charges for care services, children’s centres and libraries disappear and potholes go unfilled.

“Even if counties raise council tax under these new freedoms, it won’t prevent many of these service reductions taking place. Residents in rural counties will be asking why they are paying so much more in council tax than anyone else but receiving so much less. Two years ago we faced a similar situation, and the government listened to our concerns and introduced transitional grants. I hope Ministers in Whitehall see sense and provide Sajid Javid with the resources he needs to extend this help and prevent unfair cuts and council tax rises in our county heartlands.”