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Article date - 01 March 2018
At Wednesday (28 February) evening's full-council meeting at St Helens Town Hall, members agreed the budget and council tax rate for 2018-19 which will see council tax rise by 2.99 per cent – the maximum increase without the need of a public referendum under revised Government regulations – with the additional 3 per cent Social Care Precept.
Central Government has required councils like St Helens that provide adult social care to increase council tax by up to an additional 3 per cent in 2017-18 and 2018-19 to contribute towards these services.
Despite being the 36th most deprived local authority area in England, St Helens has been hit hard by Government cuts over the years having lost well over 50 per cent of central funding since 2010.
Over the next two years, the council will face further funding cuts totalling £9m, resulting in funding cuts of £90m over the ten-year period which equates to £507 less per person to spend on services than 2010, and has led to changes in the way services are delivered.
Commenting on the need to raise council tax in order to meet the required savings, St Helens Council Leader Barrie Grunewald said: “I know this will be difficult for local tax payers to accept, but the additional resources - while relatively small - will protect those services provided to our most vulnerable residents.
“We are committed to protecting services for the most vulnerable in St Helens and those services valued by our residents. However there are some hard choices we will have to make but these will be consulted upon, and the consequences will be considered before any decisions are taken.”
Looking ahead to the future after setting this year’s budget which he described as being ‘aligned with the long-term version of the borough’ - Councillor Grunewald added: “This budget is the second year of the council’s three-year budget set out last year, and continues the focus on our bold vision for the borough; a borough-wide growth strategy which will provide the jobs and opportunities the people of St Helens deserve.
“We have established an Ambassadors programme which brings together key figures from business who have a shared vision for the borough and are working together to promote the benefits of St Helens as a place to establish and grow businesses.”
Councillor Grunewald continued: “We have launched the town centre plan and secured ownership of Church Square Shopping Centre with a view of long-term development – and set about producing master plans for our area centres to capture the potential for sustainable growth they possess. On top of this, we are working to support the development of logistics developments along the key road and rail networks.
“And finally, we have set an ambitious timescale for full integration of health and social care by recruiting our first director with joint responsibilities for both areas – while establishing a ‘People’s Board’ which now oversees the development of the integrated services.
“All this has been achieved while responding to the massive budgetary challenges forced upon us by the Government.”
For more information on the budget, visit: www.sthelens.gov.uk/council/council-finance-performance/council-budgets/