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Sunday, April 14, 2024

4.99 percent council tax hike for Kirklees as council approves budget

The council has balanced its budget but tough decisions are on the way

A 4.99 percent council tax hike is on the way for Kirklees residents as the council agrees its budget for 2024/25.

The local authority’s spending plans for the coming financial year were given the green light at the 6 March Full Council meeting. While Kirklees Council has achieved a balanced budget, tough money-saving measures remain on the horizon as the council needs to make a saving of £34.5m over the next year.

Among the measures is the 4.99 percent council tax increase, two percent of which is earmarked for social care services for older residents and local people with disabilities. In total, this means an additional £1.71 per week will be payable for an average Band D property.

In addition, job cuts, service redesigns, the sale of assets, and parking fee increases are some of the other ways the council intends to make the necessary savings and avoid effective bankruptcy.

The agreed budget will also see the council spend £258m on care services for adults in 2024/25. Spending on social care services for children will be £69m. The council’s plans include a £1.4bn investment into the Kirklees economy over the next five years through its capital plan.

The council faces increasing costs and demand for services like social care, which it must provide by law, and which support local residents with some of the most pressing needs.

Much of last night’s debate around the budget saw finger-pointing from groups across the political spectrum, attempting to pinpoint the source of the council’s problematic financial position, with this particularly heated between some Labour and Conservative members.

Multiple Labour councillors pinned the blame on insufficient funding from the Conservative government and 14 years of austerity, while some Tory members said that mismanagement by the Labour administration was responsible.

The Lib Dem group also criticised the approach the Conservative government has taken to funding local authorities but also felt that Labour’s proposed budget could have been distributed more fairly across the district.

Ultimately, the budget put forward by the Labour administration was agreed without any amendments from other political groups being adopted.

Cllr David Hall. Image: Kirklees Council

After the vote had taken place, Leader of the Conservative group, Cllr David Hall, suggested that there should be more time for opposition groups to make contributions and that a more collaborative approach be taken to setting budgets. This was echoed by members of other political groups.

Following the meeting, Cllr Cathy Scott, Leader of Kirklees Council said: “Councils across the country are setting their budgets in some of the most difficult circumstances in living memory.

Cllr Cathy Scott. Image: Kirklees council

“We’ve had to take painful decisions to give the council financial stability. But, at the same time, we’ve tried to stay true to our values. That means focusing our resources on the people who need our support most. It also means modernising and transforming services to make them as efficient as we can. And it means continuing to invest in our future, to bring jobs and opportunities to families and communities in every part of Kirklees.”

Cllr Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Finance and Regeneration said: “All our services, from safeguarding children to emptying bins, rely on stable funding. That’s why it’s been so important to deliver a balanced budget for residents. The alternative to a balanced budget would be worse for residents, local services and hard-working council staff.

Cllr Graham Turner. Kirklees Council

“Since the cost-of-living crisis first hit, we’ve been reducing our costs relentlessly. We’ve frozen all but the most essential recruitment and spending. We’ve reviewed our investment programme and our use of buildings. But the challenges for all councils are bigger than that. That’s why we set out a long-term plan in the autumn that would reduce spending to match the pressures we face. This budget achieves that fundamental responsibility.

“Local government lives from hand to mouth, despite it delivering the services that we all rely on from looking after vulnerable children to providing adult social care, waste disposal and maintaining roads. Relying on funding from government for one year at a time makes it difficult to plan for the long term and deal with growing demand for services. We need a fair funding settlement that is for several years so that we can plan ahead and not be constantly budgeting for a single year.”

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