Rochdale Council is planning to freeze council tax for all residents next year

Date published: 30 July 2020

Rochdale Council is planning to freeze council tax for all residents next year, despite the authority facing an eye-watering budget gap of more than £33m in 2021/22, largely owing to the impact of Covid-19 on its finances.

Abandoning its initial plan to put bills up by the maximum 1.99% will cost the council £1.8m in lost income.

Council leader Allen Brett says he is determined not to inflict any further financial hardship on residents on the back of the coronavirus crisis.

He said: “We’re doing this because I just think people have paid too much money out during the pandemic and the people who probably most need it - in other words the working poor - need a council tax freeze.”

The council’s chief finance officer Julie Murphy told a cabinet meeting that an inflationary rise, or cuts to services, could not be ruled out as part of the budget-setting process.

It is also worth noting that the government is also yet to confirm whether local authorities will be allowed to add an adult social care precept on council tax bills.

Further precepts which are not set by the local authority are the Mayoral Police and Crime Precept and the Mayoral General Precept (which includes fire services), which could be increased by the Greater Manchester Mayor.

Councillor Brett told the Local Democracy Reporting Service he was adamant there would be no rise except for under the most extreme circumstances.

“My aspiration is to freeze council tax,” he said.

“And when I say ‘freeze council tax’, I mean freeze council tax – so no increase next year.”

Asked whether closing the budget gap through service cuts might prove even less palatable to residents he remained insistent.

“There won’t be any savings proposals that are unpopular, I’m not prepared to save at the expense of this. There will be no hard savings this year. Frontline services are protected and I want to freeze council tax.”

He added that, other than in the case of a ‘sudden catastrophe like Covid-19’, council tax would be frozen for the 2021/22 financial year.

The council’s current budget plans do assume a 1.99% increase for the following two years - 2022/23 and 2023/24 - expected to be the maximum local authorities can impose without calling a referendum.

Ms Murphy said: “At this very early stage, current planning assumptions contain no increase to the 2021/22 council tax and a 1.99%  increase for 22/23 and 23/24, however there is a significant budget gap of £33.4m for 21/22 which the council needs to address.

“The decision around council tax will be considered alongside those difficult decisions which will have to be considered to deliver a balanced budget for 21/22.”

Band D households in Rochdale currently pay £1,944.52 per year in council tax.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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