HARD-PRESSED residents will have to dig even deeper into already stretched pockets after Warwickshire County Council (WCC) agreed a 3.75 per cent hike in council tax.
It is actually the first time in many years that council chiefs have set the rise below inflation – currently at an eye-watering 5.4 per cent.
But that will be of little comfort to residents already suffering the impact of runaway inflation in the form of rocketing energy bills, sky high petrol prices and spiralling food costs.
Council Tax 2022/23
WCC accounts for the lion’s share of the toal council tax bill – accounting for nearly 80 per cent.
The 3.75 per cent hike includes two per cent which is ringfenced to fund rising costs and demand for adult social care. The remaining 1.75 per cent increase will go to other WCC provided services.
The rise is equivalent to an increase of £1.10p per week for a Band D household.
Deputy leader of the Conservative-controlled authority, Coun Peter Butlin, said: “We all use the services the county council provides, and as an organisation we must deliver value for money for the taxpayers of Warwickshire.
“The increase we have made is below the maximum five per cent increase we could make and more than half of it will be used to meet the rising demand for and costs of adult social care.”
The Next Five Years
As well as setting the coming year’s budget, councillors also agreed a financial approach to support the delivery of priorities over the next five years – its 2022-27 Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS).
It is focused on investment into services for the county’s most vulnerable adults and children. Areas for investment include:
* £10.1 million in children’s social care services
* £14.4 million to protect elderly and vulnerable adults while continuing the vision of greater integration between health and social care
£1.9 million to continue to support children and young people with disabilities placements and to ensure they can access appropriate support within their communities
* £2.8 million to increase capacity in the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) assessment and review service and to invest in the next phase of our SEND and Inclusion Change Programme
* £2.8 million in home to school transport to continue to provide services in line with council policy while being able to respond to the increasing demands on the service
* £1.8 million, as part of a £5million programme over the next three years, in digital technology and automation to drive future cost reductions
* £1.5 million over two years in the Fire and Rescue Service to review current strategies and processes for prevention activity
* £1.3 million in the Waste Management service to meet the increased demand as a result of housing growth and the increased domestic waste
* £0.7 million to provide targeted support for young people to improve mental health and wellbeing and provide activities that are a distraction from crime/county lines.
* Additionally, in line with a Liberal Democrat proposal, additional funding of £2,000 was agreed for the County Councillor grants scheme to support the Council’s Community Powered Warwickshire approach.
Coun Butlin added: “We have set a robust, ambitious and sustainable financial strategy to guide us through the next five years.
“It will enable us to tackle the major financial and demand challenges, provide us with sufficient capacity to invest to be more efficient and effective, as well as flexibility to be able to respond to a changing economic and political environment.”
To enable the council to fund demand in its main service areas it was also agreed to deliver £10.2million of budget reductions in 2022/23, increasing to £65.7 million by 2027, through better procurement, improvements in efficiency, increased income and delivering reductions in demand.
Council chiefs say it is part of a continued focus on ways to be more efficient and effective in maximising outcomes from local and national taxpayers’ money and the cost-effective delivery of services.
Green Party group leader Coun Jonathan Chilvers said:
“The rise in day-to-day prices cast a long shadow over this budget and I supported the council tax rise with a heavy heart. But central government have tied one hand behind councils’ back and we have to continue providing good services to older people, children and to prepare for the future. The Green Party will continue to hold the Conservatives to account on spending our money responsibly.
“The Conservatives chose to put more money into more buildings. We proposed more funding investing in people, particularly for young children and families and for addiction recovery. Addictions destroy family relationships, hurt children and cost the taxpayer millions. Helping just one person recover can save £100,000s in costs to hospitals, the police and to retailers from reduced theft.
“On transport the Conservatives are full of nice words about more walking and cycling, but where they are putting the pounds show a different story, tearing up Warwickshire’s countryside building more roads. The Green Party budget set out a plan for achievable transport transformation, prioritising investing in safe and easy walking and cycling for short journeys so when we do need to use our cars we’re not stuck in traffic. We’d also put in money for 20mph speed limits where people in villages and towns want them.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Coun Jerry Roodhouse said:
“Liberal Democrats were disappointed that the Conservative administration did not fully support our call to scrap the unfair council tax. We were also disappointed that they did not support the ongoing resources for outdoor education, Marle Hall is now up for auction. We are not surprised that the Tory budget was adopted and we welcomed that they adopted the increase proposed by the Liberal Democrats on Councillor grants which allow councillors to support local initiatives and youth work in their divisions. The administration has missed opportunities on the green agenda by turning off building roads and investing into public transport and our proposal to fix the pavements. It is a shame also that full support for carers of all ages and the extra investment needed as we see a growing older population, dealing with dementia. We believe that the Conservatives missed making Warwickshire Fairer more Caring and Greener.”