MORE cuts are planned at a council at the same time as a likely tax rise.
Stockton Borough Council is considering both the coming financial year’s detailed budget and also a four year financial plan.
But even if the authority achieves its plan to cut £39m in annual savings over four years and raises council tax by nearly two per cent each year, there is still likely to be a £16.8m budget gap in 2018.
The council has been dealing with severe cuts in Government funding. In 2010/11 Stockton council received £120m from the Government but that is estimated to be £53m by April, 2018, a reduction of 56 per cent in cash terms, or 74 per cent when inflation is taken into account.
At the same time energy bills have been rising by £300,000 a year.
Costs to provide the care for adults, including old people has gone up from £26m in 2009/10 to £32m at the present time and the costs of providing care for looked after children has nearly doubled from £6.8m to £12.6m in the same period.
The three areas of energy and caring for adults and children account for 40 per cent of the council’s annual expenditure.
The council is planning to reduce annual costs by investing £14m in cheaper street lighting eventually resulting in £1.8m annual savings and spending £2.8m in bringing looked after children back into the borough saving £400,000 a year.
The authority has already cut back on staff. There are 720 fewer full-time equivalent employees than four years ago and another 150 jobs will go in the next two years.
Bob Cook, Labour, leader of the council, said he would recommend a 1.9 per cent increase in the council tax from next April at next Thursday’s powerful cabinet meeting in Stockton Central Library.
That would mean rejecting the latest Government offer of a grant worth 0.9 per cent of the budget if the council froze the council tax.
Coun Cook said: “It won’t be an easy decision to increase council tax, even by the small amount of 31p per week for the majority of residents (who are Band A).
But whilst we would prefer not to increase it, I believe it is in the best interests of the borough that we do. We need to do all we can to fund services into the future…We made a serious commitment to protecting the vulnerable.”