‘No decision on council tax yet’ - Hartlepool civic leader

Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher.

A civic leader says the final decision on a potential rise in council tax will be made in February next year.

When setting out Hartlepool Borough Council’s budget proposals for next year at last Thursday’s full council meeting, Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council, indicated council tax could go up by 1.9% from next April.

He said that was the figure that had been used when putting together next year’s budget and savings plans.

The council has frozen council tax for the last five years.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the local authority is facing is further significant cuts in its Government grant and is under more pressure after losing out on £3.9million in business rates from Hartlepool Power Station after an appeal went against the authority earlier this year.

But he said a number of factors will need to be taken into account in setting the level of council tax.

They include knowing what the council’s funding settlement from the Government for next year will be, which it expects to learn later this week.

In a statement, Councillor Akers-Belcher said: “I want to make it absolutely clear that no decision has been taken to increase the level of council tax from next April.

“As I outlined at the Full Council meeting last Thursday, December 10, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into account before we are in a position to agree the budget and level of Council Tax for 2016/17 which we will do at the council meeting in February.

“One key factor is the level of revenue support grant which we are going to receive from the Government, but this will not be announced until this Wednesday, December 16.

“In the meantime, the council has to prepare and plan a budget and this includes a number of assumptions as I clearly outlined at the meeting.”

At the start of the 2016/17 budget process, the council faced a shortfall of £9.4million to balance the books, mainly due to cuts in Government funding.

It is also to lose out on £3.9million of Business Rates from Hartlepool Power Station every year following an appeal to the Valuation Office Agency which places further financial pressure on the council.

Councillor Akers-Belcher added: “Following a series of efficiencies and savings across all departments I am confident that we will be in a position to protect front-line services and hopeful that there will be no compulsory redundancies.”

He has written to Prime Minister David Cameron seeking a meeting over the cuts. The budget and level of Council Tax for 2016/17 will be agreed at a meeting of the Full Council on Thursday, February 12.