Council tax freeze confirmed for Hartlepool - and leader calls for more cash from Government to help
Hartlepool Council has approved a council tax freeze for residents in the town as part of its budget for the coming year.
Councillors on Hartlepool Borough Council made a decision on how it will balance the books and set a budget for 2021/22 at the full council meeting on Thursday evening.
This involved approving a council tax freeze for the coming year, meaning there will be no increase in both the core council tax rates and the adult social care precept.
This is subject to Cleveland Police and Cleveland Fire Authority setting their council tax precepts for the coming year.
The council will also retain its 12% Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) scheme, which means those applicable have to pay a minimum 12% of their council tax, with councils required to fully protect low income pensioners eligible for LCTS support.
This comes after in 2020/21 LCTS claimants had their bills fully covered due to additional one-off Government grant funding provided, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Chris Little, director of resources and development, had recommended the most robust option for 2021/22 would have been to increase core council tax by 2% and the adult social care precept by 3%, the maximum 5% allowed by referendum limits.
Cllr Shane Moore, Hartlepool Borough Council leader, said the local authority has faced numerous years of funding cuts from Government, and nationally funding has moved more towards council tax.
However due to the impact of Covid-19, he said implementing a council tax freeze this year and using reserves to defer a budget deficit to next year would be the best option.
The Independent Union representative said: “In view of the continuing financial impact of Covid on many of our residents, a freeze in the core council tax and adult social care precept was recommended from finance and policy for 2021/22.
“Finance and policy committee recognised this defers a budget deficit into 2022/23 and we’ll all need to work together to address this position next year.”
He added the council is still waiting for long term funding plans from the Government and shifting costs onto residents through council tax and the adult social care precept is ‘not fair or sustainable’.
He said: “This isn’t a fair or sustainable way to fund local services, children’s and adult social care, which the covid pandemic has highlighted, protects our most vulnerable residents in Hartlepool.
“It would have been much fairer if the Government had provided all of that funding themselves.
“2021/22 will be the seventh year the Government has relied on the increase in adult social care precept to fund these vital services and they keep delaying a long term funding strategy, which needs to come forward.”
Council officers noted the budget has been balanced for 2021/22 using £5.197million from the budget support fund, and the total deficit they are now expected to face in 2022/23 is £5.639million.
Of this £4.047million has been deferred from 2021/22, and the council now has a remaining budget support fund of £4.416million to tackle future years and financial issues.