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Article date - 02 March 2017
At Wednesday evening's full council meeting in the Council Chamber, councillors unanimously agreed the budget and Council Tax rate for 2017/18 which will see Council Tax rise by 1.99 per cent – the maximum amount without the need of a public referendum – with the additional 3 per cent used to fund social care.
Following a Government announcement at the end of last year, councils like St Helens, which have social care responsibilities, can bring forward a rise in social care precept from 2019/20 to 2017/18 and 2018/19.
St Helens Council will follow Government guidance in levying a care precept of 3 per cent for both 2017-18 and 2018-19, meaning the care precept for 2019/20 will be zero.
On what he descried as a “sad day,” St Helens Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Services, Councillor Anthony Johnson, told councillors there was no choice but to recommend the 3 per cent increase over the next two years in order to defend services.
Councillor Johnson said: “It gives me no pleasure to present this budget, but by 2020 our funding to spend on services will be £90m less than 2010, which is nearly one and a half times more than we currently collect in Council Tax. This also equates to over £500 lost in grant reductions for every person in the borough, and yet we are still expected to deliver more Government requirements despite our funding being cut.
“It was estimated that to meet the current service requirements, a 15 per cent rise would have been needed, so we are in this reality taking a small rise to protect services as best we can with the knowledge that cuts are also needed to balance the books."
Councillor Johnson continued: “There are ongoing pressures we have to deal with such as Government imposed grant reductions of £16m, the implications of the National Living Wage and demand pressures in the care service for adults and children – as well as the consequences of the welfare reforms which this Government uses to continue targeting working-aged families and those suffering from ill health and disability.”
Showing his support to the budget, St Helens Council Leader Barrie Grunewald said: "This budget supports the long-term vision of the borough, supports the integration of health and social care, continues to protect the most vulnerable of our society, and supports the growth and prosperity of the borough.”