Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Greens say "set a budget for the vulnerable, jobs and the economy"

Once again Reading Borough Council is preparing its annual budget and this year it has a stark choice, point out Reading Greens. It can either increase council tax by a small amount to cope with the cuts in funding (1), or it can take a token one-off bribe from the Tory government for freezing council tax.

Whilst the second option looks superficially attractive, it would not only leave the Council worse off this year by nearly £0.7m, but it would make a much bigger hole of nearly £5m in next year’s Council finances (2).

At the same time, central government is slashing its funding to the council year on year, already forcing major cuts in services and jobs (3). Accepting the one-off bribe would only make things worse.

In response, Reading Greens are proposing an average increase on council tax of 87p per week (4) to protect vulnerable children and adults and to safeguard vital services. At 3.5%, this increase would be a lot less than current inflation. They propose one more small increase in 2013/14.

Green councillor Rob White said: "we need a fair budget for tough times. The Council is facing unprecedented cuts to its funding and is proposing to reduce services or cut staff in areas such as special needs transport, learning disability support and respite care.

"The budget cuts will reduce the Council's capacity and flexibility to deliver public services and cuts to the back office will put more pressure on frontline staff reducing the time spent with service users.

"We think that this is unfair, unacceptable and as we said in our manifesto last year we think public services are important and we will defend them. For 87p per week – not per head, but per household - it is possible to limit this damage in the coming budget and to avoid finding ourselves in a massive hole next year.

"It is clear that council tax is an imperfect system, but it is one of the few options councils have to raise income. Council tax is fairer than some other options because the poorest don't pay anything and the people with the largest homes pay most. We understand these are difficult economic times and so we feel that an increase in council tax has to be modest and below inflation. This applies not just this year, but next year too, whereas a freeze this year would need a massive hike next year to make up lost income.

"Through a combination of reducing costs, and increasing some charges and council tax, we think it is possible to protect the most vulnerable from the savage central government cuts. This will also allow us to defend jobs and support the local economy. 27 councils around the country, including 11 which are Conservative controlled, as well as the Greens in Brighton (6 & 7) are also raising council tax instead of taking the one-off freeze money. We want Reading councillors to consider this option."


Notes for the Editor

For more information please contact Rob White on 07985 923938 or 0118 9667183.

1. Last year in 2011/12 the Council had to cover a shortfall of £18 million. This year, 2012/13, Reading Borough Council will need to save in the region of £8.7 million due cuts from the Tory led government. In 2013/14 the Council will need to save an additional £6.9 million. This is from a total budget of around £118 million.

2. This is compared to freezing council tax this year – and accepting the one year only government money – and a freeze next year with no money.

The table below shows the impact of declining the council tax freeze money and increasing council tax by 3.5%


2012/13 £000

2013/14 £000

Accept freeze money



Decline freeze money and increase council tax by 3.5% in 2012/13



Increase council tax by 3.5% for 2013/14



Extra income of council tax increases compared to accepting the freeze money



Total income of combined council tax increases 2012/13 and 2013/14



3. This year 95 jobs and posts will be cut. Last year approximately 300 went.

4. This figure is for a band D property.

5. Directorate of Education and Children's Services staff consultation.

6. Last year the Local Government Chronicle reported that a fifth of councils they surveyed were considering rejecting the government money for freezing council tax, including authorities run by Conservative groups.

7. The 27 councils rejecting the council tax freeze money:

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