A PUBLIC consultation on possible future changes to the Council Tax Support scheme in Reading opened today (Weds Nov 29).
The consultation is being launched to give Reading Borough Council the option of amending its current Council Tax Support scheme from April 2018 onwards, should it need to as part of the budget setting process for 2018/19.
Reading Borough Council continues to face the challenge of the most difficult budget position in its history. Demand for key Council services – like caring for vulnerable adults and children – is rising at a time of unprecedented and sustained cuts in funding for Local Government nationally.
In Reading, Government funding will have been cut from nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a Government grant of under £2 million. 75 pence of every £1 of business rates collected locally now leaves the town goes to Central Government. The on-going budget gap means the Council is continuing to have to make difficult decisions in every service area.
The consultation launched today includes the proposal to raise the rate of contribution for people claiming Council Tax Support in Reading from 25% to 35%. It also includes proposals to reduce the capital limit for people eligible for Council Tax support from £6,000 to £3,000 and to introduce new levels of non-dependant deductions.
Reading Borough Council had hoped to be able to maintain the current Council Tax Support scheme until at least 2019/20, but on-going budget pressures and the lack of any financial support for Local Government as part of last week’s Budget announcement, means it is now having to consider making a change to the scheme in the coming financial year.
Reading Borough Council Leader, Councillor Jo Lovelock, said:
“This is a change the Council is very reluctantly having to consider as a direct result of the huge pressure on Council finances brought about by the unprecedented and on-going cuts in the money Central Government gives to Reading, at a time of rising demand for key services.
“That money will have been cut from nearly £58 million between 2010 and 2020, leaving the Council with a Revenue Support Grant of under £2 million. The Chancellor’s Budget last week made absolutely zero mention of the huge pressures facing both adults and children’s social care. Considering the enormous pressure every Council is facing in these areas, it is a huge omission on the Government’s part, as the Local Government Association has said (*see notes to editors). Councils of all political persuasions are urging the Government to have an urgent review of funding for adult and children’s social care.
“As long as key public services continue to be massively underfunded by Central Government, it will fall to local Councils to make unpopular decisions.
“The Council has to consult now in order to have the option of changing the scheme if it needs to in the future. We are clear no decisions have been made in respect of any future scheme at this stage. The public consultation means the Council can vary the proposal if it chooses to, following public feedback received.”
Residents can respond to the public consultation at http://www.reading.gov.uk/ctsconsultation . The closing date for comments is January 1st 2018.
The Council will set its budget for 2018/19 in February next year. Any change to the Council Tax Support scheme will be considered as part of the budget setting process.
Notes To Editor:
Responding to the Chancellor’s Budget announcement last week, Lord Porter, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:
“It is hugely disappointing that the Budget offered nothing to ease the financial crisis facing local services. Funding gaps and rising demand for our adult social care and children’s services are threatening the vital services which care for our elderly and disabled, protect children and support families. This is also having a huge knock-on effect on other services our communities rely on. Almost 60p in every £1 that people pay in council tax could have to be spent caring for children and adults by 2020, leaving increasingly less to fund other services, like fixing potholes, cleaning streets and running leisure centres and libraries.
“Adult social care services are essential to keeping people out of hospital and living independent, dignified lives at home and in the community and alleviating the pressure on the NHS. Simply investing more money into the NHS while not addressing the funding crisis in adult social care is not going to help our joint efforts to prevent people having to go into hospital in the first place.
“The money local government has to run services is running out fast and councils face an overall £5.8 billion funding gap in just two years. The Government needs to use the upcoming Local Government Finance Settlement to set out its plan for how it will fund local services both now and in the future. We remain clear that local government as a whole must be able to keep every penny of business rates collected to plug funding gaps while a fairer system of distributing funding between councils is needed.
“Only with fairer funding and greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area can local government generate economic growth, build homes, strengthen communities, and protect vulnerable people in all parts of the country.”
See https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/lga-responds-autumn-budget-2017 for more on the LGA reaction to the budget.