What Rochdale council’s budget will mean for you
Date published: 07 February 2020
Faced with a £14m funding gap, council bosses have opted to increase council tax
An increase to council tax of almost 5% is set to be signed off by the cabinet next week as part of the budget proposals for the next financial year. This means Rochdale residents will have to pay a minimum of £58 extra a year in council tax.
Faced with a £14m funding gap, council bosses have opted to hike council tax by the maximum 3.99% allowed by government rules – 1.99% for general purposes and 2% for adult social care.
But with the Greater Manchester Mayor’s policing precept expected to rise by the maximum £10 and the general precept by £14 (partly to fund bus reform) Rochdale residents are looking at an overall increase of 4.69%.
Those living in Band A properties – the majority of homes in the borough – will pay an extra £58 per year, bringing their annual bill to £1,296.25.
People living in Band D homes – the traditional council tax benchmark – will pay an extra £87 per year – equating to an overall bill of just over £1,944.
Senior councillors say they have “no choice” but to increase council tax while the government continues to starve them of cash.
They expect to have to save a further £18m during the following financial year on top of the £180m slashed from its budgets since 2010.
The council will cut its anti-smoking programmes from April – with the exception of those it is legally obliged to run – saving it £29,000.
It has ditched plans to introduce a controversial new adult social care charge and move Milnrow Youth Club following a public consultation.
It was advised to shelve the latter two measures – set to save the council £32,000 in total – by a council scrutiny committee.
Instead it will increase its discretionary fees and charges in line with inflation, having initially decided to freeze last year’s prices.
However, there are some exceptions.
Discretionary fees and charges
The council has the ability to set a whole host of fees and charges for services it provides – such as the hire of football pitches, animal licensing and advice on planning applications.
Perhaps the most controversial change being proposed is a £20 charge for replacing wheelie bins which have been stolen or damaged.
A consultation on this closed on 2 February and decision will be made soon.
Elsewhere all discretionary fees and charges will rise in line with inflation – estimated to be around 2% over the financial year. But there are a number of exceptions.
- Bereavement services
- Car parking
- Taxi licences
- Music Service charges
- Land charges
- Food hygiene charges
- Use of town hall meeting rooms
- Facilities management charges
Prices in these areas will remain frozen, because it is feared a rise would result in a drop in revenue, or to bring them in line with benchmarked or Greater Manchester standards.
However, there will be above inflation charges in some areas where bosses have been able to make a case for them.
These include library service costs – such as fines for overdue books and replacement membership cards, but these only amount to pence.
What about businesses?
Although not under the council’s control, a number of changes to business rate discounts are expected to be included in the government’s budget next month, which take effect from April.
Increasing retail relief from 33% to 50% – as well as extending it to cinemas and music venues. Premises that are open to the public and have a rateable value below £51,000 will qualify.
Pub relief is being reintroduced from April at a flat rate of £1,000. Pubs with a rateable value below £100,000 will qualify. This will be paid in addition to the retail discount.
The £1,500 business rate discount for local newspapers’ office space is to continue until April 2025, having initially been introduced for two years in 2017.
The council – which now retains 100% of business rates – will be compensated for any loss of income by way of a ‘section 31’ grant from the government.
What happens next?
The cabinet meets next Wednesday (12 February) to agree the new budget, although it will not be officially approved until it is voted on by the full council on 26 February.
However, given that nearly three quarters of councillors belong to the controlling Labour group, there is little doubt the proposals will go through.
Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Do you have a story for us?
Let us know by emailing email@example.com
All contact will be treated in confidence.