Council tax increases
2017/18 is the second year of the government’s 4 year financial settlement for local authorities. By April 2020 the council will receive no government grant to support its day to day services. Instead, it will be reliant on income from council tax and a share of the rates payable by businesses based in the local area.
As a consequence of the reducing government support and the continuing increase in demand for the services we provide, the council faces a potential funding shortfall of £25m over the next 3 years. In this context, setting the council’s budget and council tax for 2017/18 and planning for the years beyond is a very challenging task.
The government has also recently made a number of changes from its published plans on which the 4 year settlement was based. The most significant for Bracknell Forest was a large reduction in the financial incentive for bringing forward housing development, known as the New Homes Bonus. The government has used part of this saving to fund an additional one-off grant for Adult Social Care, targeted at areas in greatest need. However, as a relatively prosperous area, Bracknell Forest loses more than it gains from these changes, meaning we need to find even more money to bridge the local funding gap.
Another change made by the government is to allow councils to re-phase increases in council tax specifically aimed at helping pay for the rising costs of adult social care services. The government will now permit increases of up to 3%, so long as the total increase over the next 3 years is no greater than 6%. The governments financial model anticipates all local authorities using this higher rate to help fund adult social care costs.
Given the overall situation, next year’s budget is based upon a council tax increase of 4.99%, which will contribute £2.5m towards the overall gap.
This comprises 1.99% to support the continued delivery of vital front line services including waste and recycling collection and street works, with the remaining 3% supporting pressures in the adult social care budget. The total increase represents just over £1 per week for an average Band D property.
The council understands that no increase in council tax is welcome. We are, of course, continuing to review and transform all our services for residents in order to both reduce their cost and secure a sustainable future for them. The 2017/18 budget includes savings of over £10m, primarily delivered through our transformation programme. We also plan to draw on £2.6m of our reserves to balance the budget, which is available thanks to our long track record of prudent financial management.
In order to levy the adult social care precept the government has stipulated that we provide the following text along with our council tax information:
The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has made an offer to adult social care authorities. (“Adult social care authorities” are local authorities which have functions under Part 1 of the Care Act 2014, namely county councils in England, district councils for an area in England for which there is no county council, London borough councils, the Common Council of the City of London and the Council of the Isles of Scilly.)
The offer is the option of an adult social care authority being able to charge an additional “precept” on its council tax for financial years from the financial year beginning in 2016 without holding a referendum, to assist the authority in meeting expenditure on adult social care. Subject to the annual approval of the House of Commons, the Secretary of State intends to offer the option of charging this “precept” at an appropriate level in each financial year up to and including the financial year 2019-20.’