Hartlepool leaders push for council tax freeze for 2021/22 - despite concerns it will cause 'more difficult decisions' in future years
Hartlepool’s political leaders are pushing ahead with a council tax freeze for residents in Hartlepool as part of budget plans for the coming year, despite concerns it could cause more difficulties in future years.
Cllr Shane Moore, Hartlepool Borough Council leader, raised the motion to freeze council tax for 2021/22 at the finance and policy committee on Monday, January 25.
The proposal, which includes a freeze in both core council tax and the adult social care precept, was unanimously backed by councillors on the committee, and will now go before full council on Thursday, January 28, for approval.
Cllr Moore, who represents the Independent Union on the council, said given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic it was important to give residents ‘breathing space’.
He said: “For me, whilst it does go against the professional advice, the general consensus is people do need a little bit of breathing space this year.
“If there is an option to defer decisions until a later date and give us more time to lead in to look at what the landscape looks like next year, then it is one we should be certainly looking at this time around.”
He added it was important the council has a ‘united voice’ to make people aware of the Government shifting funding pressures on to local councils .
Cllr Mike Young, deputy council leader, also backed the proposals to freeze council tax.
The Conservatives representative said: “It’s really difficult circumstances, we are still in the grip of a pandemic and I think to add further burden to the population of the town is unfair.”
Cllr Stephen Thomas, Labour Party representative on the committee, backed the freeze and hit out at the increased funding pressures placed on local authorities like Hartlepool due to the lack of Government funding.
He said: “It’s not just a rainy day at the moment, we’re in an absolute deluge, we’re in the middle of monsoon season.”
He added: “Placing a 5% council tax increase on residents would be absolutely inappropriate at this point in time, but we do appreciate the difficulties that this council is facing going forward and where much of the blame for that lies.”
Mr Little warned after nine year of austerity the authority has made significant cuts in services, and going forward it will only get more difficult.
He said: “In my professional view a proposal not to increase council tax and the social care precept is not a robust decision because it’s going to require the authority to make more difficult decisions in future years.
“No-one wants to increase council tax, particularly in a pandemic, particularly in a town that has relatively high levels of deprivation, we’re all in a really difficult position.
“It’s not just this year’s budget, we need to be trying to put in place the financial foundations for the future years.”
It was previously agreed the council would use reserves to balance the budget for 2021/22, and no council tax rise or adult social care precept means the council will defer a deficit of just over £4million to 2022/23.
This would mean they would have to use around £5.2million from the council’s budget support fund for 2021/22, leaving around £3.4million uncommitted for future years.
However, a proposal was also passed to carry forward one-off funding of around £1million from Government to help offset the costs of the council tax freeze, which could have been used to provide additional support to Local Council Tax Support (LCTS) claimants.