Survey reveals most local authorities planning council tax rises in 2019-20

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14th February 2019 13:50 - Local Government

Survey reveals most local authorities planning council tax rises in 2019-20: Council tax rises are planned for 97 per cent of local authorities in England in the coming year, according to recent research - but over half (53 per cent) of the council leaders polled say they will still not have enough funds to cover costs and expect to rely on their reserves. Four in ten councils will be dipping into reserves for the second year running. 

According to the annual survey by the Local Government Information Unit (LGiU) thinktank, three-quarters of local councils are planning to increase tax by more than 2.5 per cent from April. The largest increase possible without a referendum is 3 per cent in most areas.

But despite the larger council tax bill, residents can also expect further cuts to key services including adult social care and children's services as well as in areas like waste collection and road maintenance.

A quarter of councils polled said that the public would notice the effects of cut services and 22 councils fear they may be unable to deliver the legal minimum service for local residents.

The survey found almost a third of local authorities (29  percent) are planning further cuts in adult social care from April, as well as a reduction in children's care services (24  percent) special education and disability support (16  percent), homelessness support (11  percent) and funding for local Citizens’ Advice Bureaus (18 percent).

Other areas facing cuts include arts and culture (46 per cent), parks and leisure activities (45 per cent), roads (38 per cent) and libraries (32 per cent). Residents can also expect cuts to waste collection (22 per cent) and recycling (11 per cent).

Councils have indicated they will have to look to increase charges in areas such as parking, waste collection, cremations and burials, and adult social care to make up for cuts in central government funding. 

The current system for council funding is believed to be ‘unsustainable' by 8 in 10 of the senior council decision makers polled. The survey also revealed that 84% think it is a 'high priority' to explore other sources of income to bridge the funding gap, with 82% thinking about how they might commercialise existing council services to generate additional funding. More than half (57%) want to sell off council assets to raise income.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, said: "This year we see that we are no closer to finding a solution. Councils are making do by increasing council tax as much as they can, increasing charging and dipping in to their reserves. And even with these desperate measures they are having to reduce spending; not just on vital place-shaping services like leisure, libraries and parks but in core life-saving areas like social care and children’s services."

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