By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter:
A COUNCIL tax rise of 3.99 per cent and millions of pounds worth of cuts in Tameside have been voted through unanimously after Tory councillors backed the 2019/20 budget.
At a meeting of the full council on February 26, the Conservative group revealed it would not be putting forward an alternative budget to challenge the Labour administration.
The agreement means residents will pay at least £59 more on their council tax for the borough, together with the mayoral precept.
The so-called ‘average’ Band D property in Tameside will see its total bill go up by nearly £90.
Council leader Brenda Warrington – supported by other members of the Labour group – launched a blistering attack on Government policies and austerity, claiming it was pushing the borough to the brink of collapse.
She told the chamber the story of local government continues to be one of ‘struggle against the grinding and increasing weight of austerity’.
“Where we once had a pound to spend on services in 2010, nine years later in 2019 we have 40 pence of that pound,” she said.
And the problems were being compounded as demand for services is also increasing.
“Unless serious action is taken, councils up and down the country risk being crushed between the rock of austerity on the one side and the hard place of demographic pressures and inflation on the other,” Cllr Warrington added.
The council has to save £3.5million from its budget for 2019/20.
Cllr Warrington told members that £31m of cuts and savings will be required to balance the books in coming years, on top of the cuts and savings they have already made.
She added they need more than ‘sticking plasters’ but long-term plans which would finance council spending on more than just statutory services as the two biggest pressures on the council comes from adult services and children’s social care.
The town hall will use £9.3m of its reserves to support improvement in children’s services.
People living in Band A properties, which makes up the majority of homes in Tameside, will see the local authority element of their bill go up by more than £37.
This is a 3.99 per cent hike in general council tax, which includes a two per cent increase in the adult social care precept.
Cllr Doreen Dickinson, deputy leader of the opposition Conservative group, told members it would not be setting out an alternative budget.
“Looking forward and with lots of uncertainty about future funding, we the Conservative group, reluctantly agree to the budget of a 3.99 per cent rise,” she said.
“Having said this, any council tax rise always hits the people on low incomes the most.
“And although 3.99 per cent doesn’t seem much as an increase, it certainly does when you get the mayoral precepts on as well.
“To justify the rise I think the public should know they are getting value for money and their money is being well spent.”
She highlighted both the use of the Local Education Partnership, which had been responsible for procuring council contracts with Carillion, and issues with children’s social services as examples where residents could question whether the council had got value for money.
Cllr Liam Billington, Conservative member for Stalybridge South, added the budget showed the “shambles” the Labour council had led the borough into over the last 40 years.
He said he appreciated the number of looked after children had increased but stated that the spend per child had gone up from £55,000 to £78,000.
For this amount you could “hire a full-time nanny for each of the children and still have money left over”, Cllr Billington added.
Cllr Jim Fitzpatrick, for Hyde Godley, responded the problems were the fault of the Government, citing cuts to Sure Start centres and early intervention.
Cabinet member for children’s services, Cllr Oliver Ryan added they have less inadequately judged cases than they have “for years” and they are “revolutionising” their systems.
Increasing its fees and charges is expected to raise £719,000 for the council’s coffers.
The cost of many everyday services will rise, including pest control, burial and cremation charges and adult day care meals.