North Lincolnshire Council has agreed the council tax rate for 2023/24, with Band A households to get an £18.84 yearly increase.
An initial maximum council tax rise of 4.99% had been drafted. But as is custom in North Lincolnshire, at the full council budget meeting, an updated proposal was made.
The general council tax rate will be frozen, but there will be an increase in the adult social care precept of 1.75%. This surcharge on council tax is specifically set aside to pay for the council’s adult social care responsibilities.
The Labour opposition welcomed the freeze in general taxation, though argued for the maximum 2% increase in the adult social care precept. Councillor Rob Waltham, North Lincolnshire Council leader, defended this and said that the 2% increase will still happen, but reserves will help pay for the other 0.25%.
He and other Conservative councillors argued that they did not want to add to the burden of North Lincolnshire residents during a time of double-digit inflation by asking for a maximum rise. “We believe that residents deserve to spend the money they have on things they desire,” Councillor Waltham said.
“What a difference 12 months makes,” said Labour opposition leader Cllr Len Foster, pointing out his party’s attempts to push for a freeze of general council tax last year was rejected.
Just under half of all North Lincolnshire’s council tax payers are in the lowest payment level Band A households, and more than two-thirds in Bands A and B. The rise for Band D households, the middle taxpaying band, will work out at £28.26 extra a year. These figures do not include extra charges asked by the fire, police, parish councils and other precepting bodies.
North Lincolnshire Council expects to raise £73.4 million in council tax in 2023/24 with an increased Band D household equivalent tax base at 51,270.5. The adult social care precept will bring in £11.5 million.
In the wider budget, £7.5 million of reserves are set to be used next year and £2.4 million the year after to help achieve a balanced budget. Government funding to councils in England is increasing by 9.4% compared to last year, but this is after over a decade of such funding being cut.
This financial year, the council is set to have a balanced budget, but only after an extra £5 million in reserves was dipped into midway. The Conservative-run council have planned for £19.8 million savings called “One Council Transformation Efficiencies” in 2024-2026. Labour’s budget amendment proposed around £19 million savings over the same period, as well as raising the adult social care precept by 2%.
“There’s only one direction this is going under this present administration and we all know where that is,” Councillor Foster warned of continued reliance on reserves. He claimed that Labour’s savings would not come from public service or service delivery, but a re-examining of current council infrastructure projects.
Labour councillors like Councillor Foster took repeated aim at the Conservative administration’s tendency for “vanity projects” which did not help North Lincolnshire residents. This criticism appeared to sting, with Conservative councillors lining up to include mention of its imagination library and council grant funding to parish council and community organisation initiatives and questioning if they would qualify to Labour as “vanity projects”.
Labour Councillor Andrea Davison replied that it was capital investments like the planned innovation hub on Scunthorpe High Street and the urban park outside the council’s HQ they were concerned with. “What was there before? Slabs” said Councillor Davison of, as she viewed it, the slab replacing project.
More than 30 councillors had their say on the proposed budget in a near two hour debate, most standing to drum up attention to council actions in their area. Labour’s Councillor Mick Grant produced one of the pithiest responses, questioning the point of all the speeches with no member of the public present. “They will not even get half an inch in the paper,” he suggested, before stating he will get his message across by talking to people on the High Street.
North Lincolnshire Council will hold elections for all of its councillors in May under redrawn boundaries and some of the battlelines for then were clearly drawn. Several Labour councillors, including Councillors Lorraine Yeadon and Helen Rayner, focused on provision for activities for young people. “We should be putting accessible equipment in all our parks as a matter of course,” said Councillor Rayner.
In immediate response, Conservative Councillor Trevor Foster attacked his opposite for not doing enough: “It’s not just a case of sitting on your backside and waiting for the council to do something about it.”
The topic of safety at Ashby Ville nature reserve is also set to be a point of difference between Labour and the Conservatives. Councillor Davison announced that a Labour-run council will pay for a dedicated staff member warden and have a consultation on what else the public would like to see, such as a cafe.
Meanwhile, Councillor Waltham was keen to note the Conservatives’ budget committed to continued free parking in Ashby, Scunthorpe and Brigg and Labour’s proposed budget did not directly say this.
Labour’s amendment failed 25-13, before the proposed Conservative budget was passed by 25 votes in favour, six abstentions and seven opposed.
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