Council Tax statement from Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council

Before we can look forward to the next municipal year 2021/22, we must look back at the incredibly difficult and challenging 2020/21.

The past year has challenged us all with the covid pandemic. Keyworkers across Stockport Council have been crucial to our response to this crisis. I, like all of you, thank them for their hard work, commitment and compassion through this difficult year. This crisis response together with the conclusion of Brexit has extended both the financial pressures and uncertainty on local government and we continue to be funded through Government’s short-term one-off funding solutions and Council Tax rise expectations.

The current estimate of the cost and loss of income as a result of the pandemic in 2020/21 stands at c. £66.1m.

While we have reduced the impact this year, thanks to a combination of Government support, deferring some of the losses over the next few years, making £1.5m worth of savings that have not affected frontline services and by increasing Council Tax, there is expected to be a significant and long-lasting effect.

For 2022/23 the Council’s expected savings requirement is in the region of £ 23.2m.

Now is the time for Government to find a long-term funding solution for local government and social care. Without these answers local government runs the risk of perpetual uncertainty which makes delivering valued Council services more difficult.

The past 10 years have seen Stockport Council’s budget reduce by over £100m, which of course has influenced Council services and the manner in which they are delivered. The Government continues to be over reliant on not only using Council Tax and Business Rates as the basis of the Council’s ‘core spending power’, but using Council Tax increases to bridge funding gaps. The demand for Adult Social Care and for children and young people to be looked after, continues to rise with no signs of any reductions.

This year the government has assumed Council Tax increases of 5%; that is 2% for the general Council Tax element and 3% for the Adult Social Care Precept.

As a Council we could not justify burdening residents with the full increase during this incredibly difficult period. We are instead proposing a raise of 3.5%; made up of 2% for the general Council Tax element and 1.5% for the Adult Social Care Precept. We have offset the difference using reserves, resulting in the third lowest increase in the North West.

This amount does not address all our financial problems, but we have taken a balanced, fiscally responsible approach between protecting and providing services and not overburdening our Council Tax payers.

Importantly we have retained our ambitious vision for our town and residents. Our additional revenue investment will focus on mental and public health services, money for tackling climate change, improvements to library services and increases to youth work capacity.

Meanwhile the capital programme will continue to deliver essential town centre regeneration, an economic recovery fund for businesses, more affordable homes over the next 5 years, play and outdoor sports provision, as well as further climate change projects.

Overall, I believe the budget we have delivered is robust and very positive. We continue to protect front-line services, focus on growth and reform in order to grow our local economy while listening to the concerns of our residents.

I will again reiterate my commitment to lobbying against the regressive reliance on Council Tax and arguing for a fair and sustainable funding model from Government.

Councillor Elise Wilson, Leader of Stockport Council