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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Middlesbrough Council’s Budget proposal promises sweeping changes

Middlesbrough budget: How did councillors vote and what does it mean for residents?

A vote in favour of Middlesbrough Council’s budget plans will see a raft of changes for the town’s residents.

These include the maximum council tax increase, alongside new charges for green waste collection charges and parking permits. The savings and income generation plans total £13.9m for the cash-strapped local authority, rising to £21m by 2026/27.

Mayor of Middlesbrough, Chris Cooke. Image: LDRS

As reported, 24 Labour councillors voted to approve the budget proposals, as well as elected Labour Mayor, Chris Cooke. Of the remaining councillors, 16 voted against the plans while five abstained, while Independent councillor for Longlands and Beechwood, Cllr Joan McTigue, did not attend.

Following the meeting, Executive member for finance and governance, Nicky Walker, said if the proposals had been refused, a section 114 notice would have been issued by the local authority. A move, she said, which would have been “catastrophic” for the town and could have seen council tax increase by up to 21 per cent over two years.

Some of the changes which will come into force

Council tax

People in Middlesbrough will see council tax go up by 4.99 per cent – the maximum amount rise the council can levy. Band A properties will pay £1,317 a year – an increase of £62.60 while Band D will rise to £1,975.76 – an increase of £93.90 a year.

The increase is expected to continue for the next three years, with every additional per cent of council tax raising approximately £670,000 a year. A previous report revealed debt relating to council tax of £38.5m, business rates of £11.9m and housing benefits overpayments of £6.2m.

A “firm but fair” approach will be used to tackle this, said the council report, with additional staff being used to recover debt.

Social care

More than 80 per cent of the council’s budget for 2023-2024 was spent on providing social care for adults and children. The council says savings will come from improving efficiency in these services.

In adult social care, the council will make “enhancements in early intervention, more use of digital technology, increased reablement and a broadening of the council’s accommodation offer”. In children’s services there will be “enhancement in early help and prevention” to enable children to remain with their families, a review and evaluation of staffing levels and the use of in-house foster carers rather than agencies.

The council’s shortfall reduced to £4.7m as a result of an extra £1.6m government funding for social care.

Waste collection

Proposals agreed included a switch from weekly to fortnightly collections of black rubbish bins, introduced in July. Households of three or more people can request a free, larger 240 litre black bin.

Homes with two or fewer residents can purchase another, of the same size, for a one-off fee of £40. Communal bin collections will not change.

The council is also introducing a £40 charge for garden waste collections. Those opting-in will receive a new brown bin collected fortnightly from April until the end of November.

During April existing green waste bins will be collected for the final time, and then removed. The new brown bins will be then introduced for those who opt-in and collected from the end of April.

Cllr Peter Gavigan Image: Middlesbrough Council

Households can order up to five brown garden waste bins, with each additional bin costing £20. Cllr Peter Gavigan, Executive member for the environment, said fortnightly collection brings the council in line with most nearby local authorities.

He added: “We will be delivering information about the rollout to everyone affected in the town so they can prepare for the change. The switch to fortnightly refuse collections will be introduced in the summer, to give households time to request a new bin if they need one.”

Full list of councillors voting at the meeting

For the Budget proposals : Mayor of Middlesbrough, Chris Cooke; Cllr David Branson (Coulby Newham); Cllr Jack Banks (Brambles and Thorntree); Cllr Ian Blades (Berwick Hills and Pallister); Cllr Edward Clynch (Park); Cllr Julia Cooke (Berwick Hills and Pallister); Cllr Sheila Dean (Acklam); Cllr Jill Ewan (Newport); Cllr Theo Furness (Park); Cllr Peter Gavigan (Longlands and Beechwood); Cllr Naweed Hussain (Linthorpe); Cllr John Kabuye (Newport); Cllr Linda Lewis (Central); Cllr Jo Nicholson (Coulby Newham); Cllr Mary Nugent (Longlands and Beechwood); Cllr Anne Romaine (Newport); Cllr Julia Rostron (Park); Cllr Jan Ryles (North Ormesby); Cllr Matt Storey (Central); Cllr Philippa Storey (Linthorpe); Cllr Janet Thompson (Ayresome); Cllr Sheila Tranter (Brambles and Thorntree); Cllr Zadar Uddin (Central); Cllr Jeanette Walker (Hemlingon); Cllr Nicky Walker (Hemlington)

Five abstained from voting: Cllr Jackie Young (Ayresome, Independent); Cllr Morgan McClintock (Nunthorpe, Lib Dem); Cllr Dorothy Davison (Marton East Independent Group); Cllr Jason McConnell (Marton East Independent Group); Cllr Tony Grainge (Ladgate, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association)

Against (16 votes) :

Cllr Mieka Smiles (Nunthorpe, Conservative); Cllr Mick Saunders (Park End and Beckfield, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Christine Cooper (Trimdon, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr David Coupe (Stainton and Thornton, Conservative), Cllr Stephen Hill (Park End and Beckfield, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Luke Hurst (Ladgate, Conservative); Cllr Ian Morrish (Marton West, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Graham Wilson (Brambles and Thorntree, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Brian Hubbard (Park End and Beckfield, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association), Cllr David Jackson (Marton West, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Donna Jones (Berwick Hills and Pallister, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Tom Livingstone (Acklam, Lib Dem); Cllr Luke Mason (Coulby Newham, Conservative); Cllr Dennis McCabe (Trimdon, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Jim Platt (Kader, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association); Cllr Sharon Platt (Kader, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association)

Abstained: Cllr Jackie Young (Ayresome, Independent); Cllr Morgan McClintock (Nunthorpe, Lib Dem); Cllr Dorothy Davison (Marton East Independent Group); Cllr Jason McConnell (Marton East Independent Group); Cllr Tony Grainge (Ladgate, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association)

Readers’ reaction and councillors’ views

Following the meeting, Teesside Live readers aired their views on the result of the town hall meeting. One said: “It doesn’t matter who done what as Labour have the majority votes. No one else stands a chance.”

Another said: “Shocking that five councillors abstained! Abstaining is an easy way out of making difficult decisions!

“I assume the 16 councillors who voted against would have been happy to see a 114 notice served and the government come in and cut services to the bare minimum. This could have resulted in the residents of Middlesbrough seeing a much bigger increase in council tax but receiving even less services.”

Cllr Mieka Smiles: Image: Middlesbrough Council

Speaking at the meeting last Friday, Conservative Cllr Mieka Smiles said the council tax increases on many people in her ward of Nunthorpe would be “totally intolerable” while seeing “a greatly-reduced level of services”. Meanwhile, in a statement prior to the meeting, Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association (MICA) said they could not support the “sham budget which slashes services, whilst hitting residents with the maximum council tax increase and increased charges for poorer services.”

Cllr Mick Saunders, MICA group leader, said: “I’m appalled that Labour are selling off the council’s income-generating assets and borrowing huge amounts of money, with no plan in place as to how they will reduce spending. This is a budget to bankrupt Middlesbrough.”

Labour Cllr David Branson said, compared to other local authorities, the budget plans did not impose “a huge cost” on the people of Middlesbrough. He said many other local authorities had had to make “much more severe” cuts.

Mayor Cooke said the decision to approve the budget means the council can now move forward with the plan “to recover, reset and deliver for the people of Middlesbrough.”

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