THIS evening Oldham Council will discuss its budget proposals for the coming year at its Overview and Scrutiny committee.
Oldham Council is proposing an increase of 2.99 per cent in Council Tax to protect local services, despite significant pressure on its budgets. This is the lowest increase in Council Tax since 2015 and two per cent of this increase is for funding Adult Social Care.
Since 2010 the council has been forced to remove over £215 million from its budget, and yet because of Government funding reductions and significant budget pressures, it will have to further reduce its spending over the next few years. This means that despite the council tax rise, the proposed budget for 2020/21 is still £3 million smaller than 2019/20.
While council tax could be increased by up to four per cent without a public referendum, councillors have recognised the financial strain many Oldham residents face and have taken the decision to not do this.
It means people who live in Band A properties – the majority of Oldham’s housing stock – will see a rise of just £2.70 a month to their bills, before Parish Council and Mayoral precepts are added.
The most significant budget pressure is in Adult Social Care. Demand for care and how to pay for it is a national issue and the council urgently awaits a promised new approach for funding to be set out by Government. While it waits for this change, a two percent increase in the Adult Social Care precept is required. This is in line with what the Government expects Oldham to raise through Council Tax to spend on this important care service.
The council is conducting a further efficiency drive to manage the £3 million cuts needed this year while protecting the 700 plus services it provides. This will include cutting costs in back office services and maintaining fewer buildings. The council will also use £11m of its reserves, investing some money in new ways of working that improve efficiency.
The council also collects Council Tax on behalf of the Mayor of Greater Manchester, plus Parish Councils for Shaw and Crompton, and Saddleworth. Their shares of residents’ final bills – known as precepts – will decide the final level of Council Tax when it is set in February.
Councillor Abdul Jabbar MBE, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Corporate Services and Finance, said: “We understand that local hard-working people and families face a daily challenge to balance their own budgets. Low pay and the increasing cost of fuel, food and energy are a struggle for many people.
“We can’t ignore this and that’s why we are proposing the lowest increase in Council Tax since 2015.
“However, Oldham Council faces its own financial challenges too and balancing the budget while investing in the future and protecting local services gets harder each year.
“This year we have managed to maintain spending on services for local people with no cuts to them. We will only make savings in how the Council operates and by investing in new ways of working.
“Failure by the Government to address the rising demand and costs for Adult Social Care is a major national crisis that causes real financial pressures here in Oldham. We cannot say when the Government will address this problem but, in the meantime, we must continue to adequately fund this important service.
“We have a bold ambition to invest in good schools for young people, our local town centres and better local housing. This budget supports our ambition and these priorities will create a brighter future for Oldham.”
The budget proposals for 2020-21 will be discussed at a meeting of the Performance and Value for Money (Overview and Scrutiny) committee on January 23.
After going to a special Cabinet on February 10 they then go to the annual Full Council (Budget) meeting on February 26 for final approval.