Sutton Council proposes to put up council tax for the first time in six years

  • Increase is equivalent to £22.71 a year rise to average band D property

Sutton Council is proposing to put up council tax because of unprecedented cuts to its funding by central government and growing pressures on services for vulnerable people.

The proposed increase of 1.99% for 2015/16, approved by Strategy and Resources Committee yesterday, will generate £1.6m per annum and would mean an increase of £22.71 a year or 44p a week for a band D property.

The additional income will help to reduce the funding gap and protect some key services that have a significant impact on people’s lives and future costs to the taxpayer, for example, effective prevention and early intervention that can reduce the likelihood of vulnerable adults moving into residential care.

After freezing council tax for the past five years, the Council is faced with having to make £40m of savings from its annual budget by 2019. These are on top of £32m already saved since 2010. The council’s current annual budget is £152m.

The Council has been reviewing all areas of its work in order to make savings by commissioning services with other boroughs, reducing the amount of senior managers and staff and changing or stopping services in consultation with residents.

At Monday’s Strategy and Resources Committee, the recommended revenue budget for 2015/16 was outlined including a government revenue grant reduction of £8m, inflation and other costs of £2.2m and growing pressures of £4.9m which include increases in the costs of safeguarding children.

It was proposed to be balanced by savings of £11.4m, a council tax increase of 1.99% which would provide £1.6m, the use of £600,000 in reserves and other changes such as the council tax base going up which would generate £1.5m.

The council will also announced additional spending in certain key areas including an extra £2.9m for children’s safeguarding; an extra £300,000 for special needs transport; and a new pot of £1.8m set aside for the new Care Act which will make significant changes around assessment and eligibility for the cared for and, for the first time, carers themselves.

The Committee approved the proposal which means it will now have to be approved by the next Full Council meeting for it to come into effect.

Simon Wales, Lead Member for Finance at Sutton Council, said:

“We are proud to have frozen council tax for the past five years, but the continued government cuts to our funding and going pressures on services for vulnerable people mean we have to make some very hard decisions.

“The fairest way to achieve these enforced savings has been to share the burden. We have already made radical changes to the council to cut costs, staff and commission services in other ways including jointly with neighbourhing boroughs. That has saved more than £32m.

“Now we are faced with having to put up council tax by 1.99% as well as stopping and changing some services. We will review the situation on an annual basis.

“This will help pay for additional spending on children’s safeguarding, special needs transport and the increased cost of claims by cared for people and their carers due to the new Care Act.

“Residents can help us to reshape services by taking part in Sutton’s Future. As we have already seen with the future of green garden waste service and theatres, people’s views really do effect what happens.”

Sutton’s Future

Sutton Council launched Sutton’s Future in July 2014 so that residents could be involved in the hard decisions the council would have to take in stopping or changing services in order to make the enforced budget cuts.

As a result of community participation in Sutton’s Future, the council is exploring providing a paid for green garden waste service rather than stopping the service completely, and will hand over the running of two theatres to a community group rather than selling the buildings. Both measures will save the council millions.