Council tax freeze ambition thwarted by government underfunding

Since 2010, Stockport Council has had to make savings and cuts totalling over £133m in the face of rising costs, increasing demand for services and shrinking financial support from central government.

To balance the books the Liberal Democrat Cabinet has no option but to apply the government’s 2% adult social care precept and increase council tax by a further 1.99%. Against a referendum limit of 4.99%, we believe this will be the lowest council tax increase across Greater Manchester.

Speaking ahead of the Budget Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday 31st January, Cllr Malcolm Allan, Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “With inflation at a 40 year high and in the midst of a cost of living crisis, we have seen a £1.5m cash reduction in the funding we receive from the government. We have done all we can to ensure the lowest possible council tax increase this year, including finding £7.8m of savings away from front line services which support our most vulnerable residents. This is still insufficient to allow us to freeze council tax as we had hoped.

“Like households across the borough, the bills the council faces have all leapt in the past year. One very simple example is the cost of electricity. Just lighting our streets costs the council £2.5m more now than it did a year ago, despite years of investment in modern, low energy bulbs.”

Cllr Mark Hunter, Leader of the Council and of the Lib Dems at Stockport Town Hall, added: “We knew the challenge this year would be considerable when we formed the administration back in May, but we set out a bold ambition to freeze council tax because of the cost of living crisis. Since then the ongoing war in Ukraine, the continued impacts of Brexit and of Covid, the disastrous impact on our economy of the brief Liz Truss government and the subsequent Autumn Statement have all worked to make this even harder.

“Make no mistake, this increase is down to the Conservative government. The Tories continue to push the cost of delivering local services, including adult social care, on to council tax payers rather than funding them fairly through general taxation, meaning our ambition to freeze council tax has proved impossible to achieve. We will continue to keep council tax as low as possible in future years, but we can only do so if the government provides adequate funding in the face of soaring costs and increasing demand for our support services.”

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