THOUSANDS of South Tyneside residents are facing a council tax rise for the first time in five years.
It has also emerged that council house rents in the borough are to rise by about £1.50 a week.
Council taxes have been frozen since 2010, despite the local authority needing to make savings of more than £100m over that time.
But, with another £22m in efficiency savings required during the coming financial year, the council’s cabinet is being recommended to agree a 1.95 per cent rise, from April this year, when it meets next week.
That would equate to an extra 32p a week, or £17 a year, for the majority of borough residents living in Band A properties.
The hike will add £350,000 to the council’s coffers.
The coming year’s budget proposals also include a recommendation for a 2.5 per cent rise in council house rents.
With the average rent currently £78 a week, that works out at an additional £1.50 a week.
More job losses are also inevitable over the next 12 months, despite 1,200 council posts having already been shed since 2010.
Negotiations over the exact number of posts to be axed are continuing, but the numbers are set to be fewer than in previous years as the authority says it is down to its core staff.
A series of value-for-money service reviews across the authority has identified further savings.
The largest of those will be £7.5m from the council’s social care budget, with a greater emphasis being put on commissioning services that enable people to live independently.
Despite those cuts, Coun Ed Malcolm, the council’s lead member for resources and innovation, said a balanced budget had been prepared focused on protecting the most vulnerable in the borough and providing more services efficiently.
He said: “This is the first increase in council tax in five years, and our council tax level remains low compared to other councils and is the second lowest in the Tyne and Wear region. I want to reassure everyone in South Tyneside that this is not a decision we have taken lightly, but it is necessary to ensure we can continue to provide vital services over the coming year.
“We believe this budget delivers the best possible deal for the people of South Tyneside in the extremely difficult circumstances we face.
“We will continue to do our best for the borough despite the unfair cuts that have been handed down by the Government.”
Coun Malcolm identified one individual saving which had eradicated an annual outgoing of more than £100,000.
He said: “We had a resident who had been in residential care since he was 18, so we did a revised assessment on him by a panel of professionals, and this gentleman was moved to a supported living scheme, so our costs for that have been reduced from £105,000 per annum to zero.
“There are other examples where we have been paying for care packages that are no longer necessary for the people concerned, so we revised the packages.
“They are still getting the care they need, but it’s been felt they have been getting an over-supply of care.
“We have also been looking at the charges we have to pay the health trusts for care.”
Stuart Reid, the council’s director of finance, said: “If a resident has health needs, the health bodies are responsible for picking up those costs, and that’s not always been the case as historically, as a council, we have been picking up costs that we probably shouldn’t have been picking up.”
Budget proposals will be put to the cabinet next Wednesday and taken to the full council for signing off on Thursday, February 26.
WHERE THE SPENDING AXE WILL FALL
• £500,000 less on procurement of commercial services.
• £315,00 reduction in early years funding. This involves deleting two vacant posts and a reduction in management and advertising costs.
• £200,000 off street lighting programme and making use of more energy-efficient lights.
• £960,000 reduction in Change4Life budget promoting support to stop smoking, as well as encouraging healthy living and exercise.
• £433,000 saving by integrating the council’s economic growth and adult community learning teams.
• £100,000 less on the council and South Tyneside Homes’ fleets of vehicles.
HOW MUCH COUNCIL TAX YOU’LL PAY
Band A (65.2 per cent of properties): Set to pay £877.81, up from £861.02 this year, an extra £16.79.
Band B (13.6 per cent): £1,024, up from £1,004.53, an extra £19.59.
Band C (11.3 per cent): £1,170.42, up from £1,148.03, an extra £22.39.
Band D ((six per cent): £1,316.72, up from £1,291.53, an extra £25.19.
Band E (2.4 per cent): £1,609.32, up from £1,578.53, an extra £30.79.
Band F (one per cent): £1,901.93, up from £1,865.54, an extra £36.39.
Band G (0.5 per cent): £2,194.53, up from £2,152.55, an extra £41.98.
Band H (0.1 per cent): £2,633.44, up from £2,583.06, an extra £50.38.