Calderdale Council tax payers set to pay more over the next three years
Council Tax payers in Calderdale are likely to have to pay more over the next three years to help keep services including social care running.
Budget – likely to mean service – cuts and rising costs are “substantial” challenges, councillors heard.
Leader of Calderdale Council, Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said councils were still awaiting this year’s Local Government settlement – the amount of grant the Government gives local authorities to help fund services – with an increasing portion of funding likely to have to come from Council Tax.
Over the next three years it was likely Council Tax bills would rise by ten per cent to cover social care and other costs, he said, as a majority of the full Calderdale Council approved the authority’s three-year medium term financial strategy.
“We come to this after 11 years in which central Government support has been significantly and repeatedly reduced – local services we rely on, the basics we all want to get right, that have to be paid for, are increasingly dependant on an unfair local tax system,” said Coun Swift.
Councillors heard the strategy showed savings of £3.2 million in 2022-23 then another £5.3 million in 2024-25 are likely to be needed to balance the books.
Coun Swift said challenges were “substantial” with additional funding being offset by additional requirements.
But Conservative group leader Coun Steven Leigh (Ryburn) said the Government, which had provided £11 million of COVID support, was doing its bit to help Calderdale balance its books and his councillors would not back the strategy.
Balances were the lowest ever and his group would not support the “imprudent spending practices of this administration, extraordinary borrowing to vanity projects which are hardly ever on budget,” he said.
Coun Leigh said around 20 per cent of the council’s discretionary spending was servicing debt.
“If we can reduce the debt, that leaves more money for doing all the good things we would like to do,” he said.
However, Liberal Democrat group leader Coun James Baker (Warley) said local government’s financial crisis affected all councils including Conservative ones.
The Government was loading a “huge” social care precept onto Council Tax bills because “they still haven’t sorted out the social care crisis,” he said.
In the past councils had been told by Conservative ministers to spend their reserves on services and had done so, said Coun Baker.
But Coun Baker also wanted to see the council to be more commercial, for example starting a council lottery to bring cash in.
Coun Swift said he did not accept the council was reckless and denied schemes were “vanity projects”, citing Halifax Piece Hall, refurbished Central Library in Halifax, the Sixth Form centre in Halifax, and projects about to start including Mixenden Hub, Halifax, as improvements.
* Support your Halifax Courier by becoming a digital subscriber. You will see 70 per cent fewer ads on stories, meaning faster load times and an overall enhanced user experience. Click here to subscribe