Poll: Should council tax rise to save services?

By Emily Pearce

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

 

COUNCILS around the country are considering how they will meet the growing gap between government funding and the cost of services, including raising council tax.

Would Islanders support such a rise? That is the question at the heart of a poll launched by the Isle of Wight County Press today (Tuesday).

As the Isle of Wight Council faces the worst budget crisis in its history, almost every non-statutory service it provides is under threat.

Public services — including libraries and leisure centres, parks and playgrounds, allotments, harbours, public toilets and school crossing patrols — look set to be farmed out to parish councils or community groups, drastically scaled back or axed altogether.

Following increasingly savage funding cuts from central government, growing demand on services and little scope to raise income, the council is facing a black hole in its budget of £28 million over the next three years.

Local authorities that want to raise council tax face two financial penalties.

They will lose out on a council tax freeze grant from central government, worth around £729,000 to the Isle of Wight Council and, if they increase it above a government-set threshold, they must hold a referendum, which would cost around £150,000.

£ The net income from raising council tax by two per cent — the current referendum threshold — would be around £526,000 a year.

£ A five per cent increase, which would require a referendum, would be £2.2 million.

£ A ten per cent increase would raise £5.3 million.

The current annual council tax bill for a Band D property is £1,289.80 a year. A five per cent increase would raise it to £1,354.29, which equates to £64.48 a year, or £1.24 a week. A ten per cent raise would take it to £1,418.78, an increase of £128.96 a year, or £2.48 a week.

•Do you think town and parish councils should raise their precepts to take on services the cash-strapped council can no longer afford to provide?

The Independent-led Isle of Wight Council has suggested town and parish councils could raise their precept by around 40p a week and pool the extra cash to create a general fund, which could then be used to pay for services.

Share your views by taking part in the poll below and commenting on this story.

The poll closes at 11am on Thursday and the results will be published in this week’s County Press.

Comments

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Displaying the last 10 of 47 comments - Show All Comments

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by roger mazillius

30th January 2014, at 19:04:04

David, surely I was very much talking employee(?) and I can assure you that from 2009-2013 and pretty obviously since then, the focus is very much on reducing the workforce because there is no alternative!
Also, generally the salary levels were in line with the private sector and in many cases, below, although it may be that very long-serving employees were on better salaries.
The other bone of contention is the index linked final salary scheme but this I am sure will be reduced by necessity at least for new employees.

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by david wright

30th January 2014, at 14:20:58

Roger, You always think councilor, I'm talking employee.

When you look at wages levels for council employees versus private sector they are outrageously high often for a vacancy that really has no value. Obviously this has been done from past glories of budget suplusses now we are down to the bone and they need to rethink.

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by roger mazillius

30th January 2014, at 09:13:42

David. That is not really accurate!
1. The number of Members was reduced for the 2009 elections from 48 to 40. The Members allowances are subject to review and assessment by an Independent Remuneration Committee. Members must agree to accept their findings.
2. Members agreed to freeze the amount of allowances for the whole of the term 2009-13, which included a reduction of some allowances
and I understand the new Council has again frozen allowances.
Since 2009, a very large number of senior and middle management posts have gone, leading to a massive saving on salaries and on costs.
3. More posts, inc Directors have gone in 2013/14 with those taking over such top responsibilities doing so on a lower salary.
4. As the service reductions continue to balance the books, more staff will go, as the lower level of service delivery can be achieved by less staff.
So what it seems to me needs to be happening, is happening, but wait for the Conservative budget.

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by Les Allan

29th January 2014, at 19:15:58

Perhaps councilors should consider waiving their salaries/expenses to save money - it used to be voluntary without payment.

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by david wright

29th January 2014, at 17:18:18

Don,
You talk sense but my point is every year the council reel out the usual suspects closing toilets,libraries increasing costs of meals on wheels absolutely anything to scare the public but never mention or consider cutting the MASSIVE wage bill with wage cuts.
Council staff at certain levels are vastly overpaid and have pension rights that future generations are never going to be able to afford.The recent talk of redundancies is not a wage cut, but a staff cut a very different thing!
A normal business would have to cut costs if it was not balancing the books as they would go bankrupt. The Council have an ace in the hole, the legal right to demand money from the shareholders/taxpayers and they want to use that instead of being value for money.
By passing the freeze on council tax by increasing it through stealth increases using the parish precept is morally bankrupt and should be banned.
The council need to understand the tax payer is as broke as they are and cannot afford mor

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by Don Prescott

29th January 2014, at 14:37:48

david,

Got to disagree with "cuts they talk about are always essential services", as they (Council) are legally bound to provide certain statutory services.

How they are trying to get round this financial problem is by trying to "stick it" to the town and parish precept payers under the guise of it being "only 40p a week".

If you look at what was said by the Deputy Leader of the Council on the "Winter Gardens on hold" story, you will read:
"I suggested a precept increase of 40p per week as a realistic local contribution towards alleviating the problems we face in delivering discretionary services".

Note the word "discretionary".
In terms of what that really means, it could cover a multitude of service, but generally it will lead to more bureaucracy, especially if one is building an empire, one needs more "staff" to run it.
Then they can say "we're creating jobs too".
Neat huh?

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by david wright

29th January 2014, at 13:08:46

The cuts they talk about are always essential services but NEVER the overblown salaries and unsustainable pensions!

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by Mat Thomas

29th January 2014, at 13:08:15

The Government has cut £15m off the grant out of the £28m shortfall. There is a projection of even greater cuts to local authorities if the Con/Dems are re-elected. Agreed the Blame has to go to the Government in the first place.There is, though, an issue of rising costs.So the money has got to come from somewhere.

Council tax rises above 2% require a referendum and if you raise them you lose a government incentive of £900,000+

The only window of opportunity is a local precept increase of approximately 50p. Its the price of a Mars bar.This would provide a buffer but you will only get one chance at it because the Government will cap it. Take it now because you will be faced with taking on some services and you won't get a second chance. Don't be envious of councils that do, if you don't.

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by Keven Ball

29th January 2014, at 11:50:00

Tourism isn't very strong on the island nowadays though? If it wasn't for all the OAPs coming on coach tours then the island would be in deep water!

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by Owen Burson

29th January 2014, at 08:34:06

K Thornton - lots of very good points. I totally agree. Supporting businesses so they can offer more year round jobs along with investment in the only real economy the island has. Tourism.

Any views or opinions presented in the comments above are solely those of the author and do not represent those of the Isle of Wight County Press.

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