Localisation of council tax adds to budget woes

Council tax has been frozen for a third consecutive year as the county battles with severe cuts, which have been amended for the coming years.

On Monday, the council’s executive gave the green light to a 2013/14 budget including savings of £23million, up from a proposed £18million, and an amended plan for the period 2012-16, which now sees cuts of £102.6million, up from £73.7million.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s economic prosperity and strategic services overview and scrutiny committee, Coun Paul Kelly asked about the implications of the council-tax freeze.

Executive member for corporate resources Andrew Tebbutt said that the figures before the four-year plan was updated suggested the council would lose £15million of income, but added that it was difficult to know what grants they may have missed out on.

“What is clear is that the Government has been quite hard on other councils that have raised council tax,” he added.

This year, the council also has to grapple with the localisation of council tax and the changes to council-tax benefit.

While the Government will provide funding for the new system, it is 10 per cent less than what is required to provide council tax support.

To make up the shortfall, under the national default scheme, inhabitable properties will have no exemption nor will empty properties.

Coun Tebbutt said he didn’t think people grasped the full effect of this, but said that no sliding scale was available. Council leader Coun Jeff Reid added that payment could be deferred in the case of, for example, the death of a relative when a property is being sold.