Council tax bills set to rise by at least 3.75% in South Tyneside as borough leaders try to balance the books amid impact of covid pandemic

Council tax is set to rise by 3.95% in South Tyneside.

Wednesday, 27th January 2021, 1:26 pm

South Tyneside Council chiefs say they have been able to balance the borough’s annual budget for 2021/22 despite the cost of the coronavirus pandemic and a shortfall in Central Government funding – but not without proposing raising bills or cutting spending.

Leaders are looking to increase council tax by 3.95% for the year, with 3% of the rise earmarked for adult social care.

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Council tax is set to rise in South Tyneside as borough leaders try to balance the books amid the impact of the pandemic

Borough bosses say the council also needs to save a further £8million in 2021/22 on top of the £175million it has already saved since 2010, which they say is due to a tight financial settlement from the Government, as well as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The proposals, detailed in the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan, most be approved by the council’s ruling cabinet of senior councillors, followed by a vote of all members at a full council meeting in February.

Council leader Cllr Tracey Dixon said the budget had been produced under the “most testing circumstances that the council and our communities have ever faced.”

South Tyneside Council Leader Cllr Tracey Dixon

“Over the last twelve months, in addition to normal business, we have been focused on addressing the challenges of covid, ensuring support services are in place to help those who need it and working hard to adapt to ever changing circumstances,” she said.

“We will continue to respond to the pandemic and do everything we can to help protect our communities from the virus, working hand in hand with our partners across the region.”

New budget proposals include a capital spending plan of £360million over the next five years on major infrastructure projects, such as sustainable energy projects and major road improvements.

The spend in 2021/22 is set at £99million, financed by a mixture of external funding, Government grants, borrowing and capital receipts from sales of assets.

Councillor Joanne Bell, lead member for resources and innovation, said the challenge of Covid has been “layered on top of the already existing financial stress that public services have been under for a decade.”

“There is also significant uncertainty in funding going forward due to the pandemic and the absence of a multi-year Government spending review,” she said.

“But we have focused on delivering services in new and innovative ways so that local people have access to the support they need.

“The Medium Term Financial Plan looks to improve the lives of our residents and begin to mitigate some of the impacts we have all felt in the last year.”

Cllr Bell said money would be spent where it mattered most to the lives and futures of people in South Tyneside.

“Place and people are at the heart of everything we do – from major regeneration projects to improving local areas and increasing support for older people so that more than ever they can continue to live in their own homes,” she said.

“We will continue to invest in our infrastructure and environment – prioritising action to address climate change by continuing to invest in flood defences and cutting-edge green technology to meet our energy supply demands with major schemes in Hebburn and Jarrow.

“The council will also receive the first full report of the Sustainable South Tyneside Climate Change Strategy, marking progress on our commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“We will build on our reputation as one of the best children’s services authorities in the country including expanding our special educational needs provision within the borough as well as expanding accommodation and support for people with learning disabilities.

She added: “We will continue to improve and stay focused on not only delivering for, but also standing up for the people of South Tyneside as we move into a post-covid world.”

Council chiefs say they continue to press the case for fair funding from Central Government, including the increased pressures in adult and children’s social care which account for some 67% of the council’s discretionary budget.

Proposals for a 3.95% council tax increase include the Government’s adult social care levy, which is ringfenced for those services and an 0.95% increase in core council tax.

Council chiefs say the borough’s ageing population is increasing placing pressure on services such as adult social care especially as Government funding continues to be reduced.

This is coupled with increasing demand on services to protect and support vulnerable children.

Instead of a long-term funding solution or additional grant, the Government has permitted a percentage increase in council tax bills to be ringfenced to assist in meeting rising adult social care costs.

The bill issued by the council will include separate amounts levied by other statutory bodies such as police and fire.

Tyne & Wear Fire and Civil Defence Authority and the Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner are expected to confirm their changes in February.

The Medium Term Financial Plan will be considered by the council’s cabinet on February 3 before being brought to full borough council for consideration on February 25.

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