What 2019/20 budget will mean for Rochdale

Date published: 18 February 2019

Residents are set to pay at least an extra £62 per year in council tax as Rochdale Council again looks to balance the books amid ‘huge financial challenges and difficult choices’.

Cabinet officers have signed off budget proposals for the coming financial year which are expected to be voted through at a meeting of the full council later this month.

Rochdale has absorbed a huge £178m in cuts over the last nine years, and the council was initially faced with a financial gap of £8.2m for 2019/20 when a three-year budget was set last February.

The gap is revised throughout the year as more information on government funding is released and new savings are identified – in September councillors were given an update which put it at £3.5m.

And, to help close that gap, Rochdalians will again see a rise in the amount of council they have to pay – a total increase of some 5.31%.

The ‘general levy’ element of the bill will rise by 2.99% – the maximum the council is  allowed without calling a local referendum.

And the ring-fenced adult social care precept will also rise by one percent – the most the council can increase it by without exceeding the 6% over-three-years limit set by the government in 2017/18.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham will also raise the part of bills that pays for the police by the maximum £24 per year for an average Band D property.

He is also as putting up his Mayoral precept by £9 – £1 more than was expected – to fund an overhaul of bus services.

This would leave those living in Band D properties paying an extra £93 per year, taking their annual bill to £1,857.39.

However there are more Rochdale homes rated in Band A than any other – and these residents will see their bills increase by £62.48 to £1,238.26.

Cuts which have already been approved by the council include slashing community centre funding by half, to generate £100,000 of savings.

The centres will operate on around 25% of their original funding from 2020/21 and continue to have the option of bidding for a share of a £93,540 ‘transitional pot’ created as part of the move.

During a discussion on these savings – which originally proposed to remove all funding from 2020/21 – Council leader Allen Brett said the council was now being forced to ‘cut to the bone’.

Plans to cut £4,000 from the voluntary sector grant to homelessness prevention services were ditched in December.

But social and welfare advice and legal services will be slashed by 10% – generating an ongoing saving of £35,000.

The council has also found £1.4m of savings that do not require consultation – of which 1.2m are ongoing – while a further £136,000 have been found ‘outside of the process’.

Some £156,000 will be pumped into council services from reserves in order to achieve a balanced budget.

Discretionary fees and charges

The council also has the ability to set a whole host of fees and charges for services it provides, and for the coming year has opted for a 2% ‘uplift’ across the board – with a few exceptions.

This 2% increase will apply to services including replacing wheelie bins, the hire of football pitches, burial and cremation fees and MOTs carried out by the council.

Also included under this blanket rise are car boot sales, food hygiene and street trading licences.

Taxi drivers  – both hackney carriage and private hire – will also see their licence renewal fees rise in line with the blanket 2% uplift.

Breaking the 2% barrier

And anyone whose domestic bliss is disturbed by a pest infestation in their home will find themselves paying considerably more than in 2018/19.

Removal of a wasp nest or ants from a domestic premises is to go up by 25% to £75 with advanced payment. In the case of wasps, this charge is ‘per nest’.

Council officers say these exceed the 2% uplift in order to offset the drop-off of requests to remove mice and rats since a £25 fee was introduced in January last year.

Other charges that break the 2% barrier include site fees for events such as fairs and circuses held on council land.

These are going up by 14% to £800, while fees for bouncy castles and fairground rides are also rising by 7%.

Big changes on the way for planning applications

Existing planning charges are going up by a minimum of 20% in line with national increases – and some new fees are being introduced in a bid to raise an extra £100,000 during 2019/20.

Current fees set for a hike include pre-application advice for ‘large scale major developments’, which are going up by 33% to £2,000, while fees for ‘major developments’ and ‘minor developments’ are set to increase by 80% and 31% respectively.

And pre-application guidance for one small dwelling or commercial development will go up by a whopping 122% to £192.

New charges coming into the planning system for the first time include a range of pre-application help spanning from £1,500 to £200.

Other new charges for 2019/20

A new licence fee for pleasure boats with up to 12 passengers will come in for the new financial year.

This is due to charity Link4Life applying for a licence to operate a pleasure boat on Hollingworth Lake –  the proposed fee is set the same as a private hire vehicle fee.

A fee of £425 will be applicable for non-attended cremations, hand-delivered export certificates will set businesses back by £35 and libraries will charge £15 for a local history digital photograph print.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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