Date Published: 04 March 2021
Last night (Monday 22 February 2021) Council members approved Rutland County Council’s budget for 2021/22 including the use of £2.4m reserves to balance the budget to protect residents from a 5% increase in Council Tax.
Each year the County Council is required to set a budget and the level of Council Tax. This year budget setting became more challenging, as the Local Government Settlement, provided by the Government, gave the Council less core Government funding than in the previous year. To compensate for this, Government anticipated that many Councils would raise Council Tax by up to 5%.
The Council Tax paper was debated at length by Council members. A proposed amendment to the paper was put forward for Council Tax to be increased by 3.99% instead of 2.99%. The amendment was unsuccessful with 16 members voting against, six voting for and three abstentions. Members’ overall view was that an increase of 3.99% would unduly disadvantage residents and remove money from the economy at a time when the focus should be on rebuilding and recovering post-pandemic. The Council Tax rise of 1.99%, plus the Adult Social Care Precept of 1%, was agreed with 16 in favour and nine abstentions.
The Council is continuing to operate under huge financial pressure, resulting from real-term funding cuts, at a time when demand and spending on key services continues to rise. The Council Tax increase of just 1.99% (plus the Adult Social Care Precept of 1%) is the smallest increase put forward in any of the past five years. To balance the budget, the Council is proposing to use £2.4m of reserves to bridge its funding gap. This means that the average increase in Council Tax for a Band D property in Rutland will be £1.02 per week.
“This has been one of the most challenging budgets of recent years. Historically, we've often talked about the financial pressure on local councils and the need to make difficult decisions to balance the books. This is exactly what Councillors were faced with on Monday night. Looking at a funding gap of more than £2.4 million over the next year, Councillors have decided not to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount allowed by government. Instead we will use our reserves to make up for the loss of government money. However, we will also need to make at least £1m of savings over the next twelve months.
The government needs to understand that its current approach to funding local councils is unsustainable and simply passes costs on to local taxpayers. This isn't fair on residents and could put local services at risk in the long term
Councillor Oliver Hemsley, Leader of Rutland County
The Council sets a budget at the start of every year, explaining how much money is needed to run local services and where this funding will come from. Rutland County Council’s overall budget for 2021/22 will be £41.5million over the next 12 months to maintain local services for residents. This is the total yearly cost of everything from road maintenance and bin collections to library services, fostering and adoption, bus travel, school transport and care for older people.