Residents are being encouraged to have their say on some of the budget proposals for the first year of the new Cumberland Council.
The new council will provide all council services from 1 April 2023 to residents who live in the current Allerdale, Carlisle and Copeland district council areas. Another authority, Westmorland and Furness Council, will be providing services in the other parts of Cumbria.
The Shadow Executive for Cumberland Council, elected in May 2022, has been working hard to bring the budgets for the four councils together and is now consulting on some of the proposals in relation to council tax.
This is a once in a generation to create a new council that better meets the needs of local residents. The council has already agreed a council plan which puts health and wellbeing at the heart of everything it does, and wants to work closely with its communities on service delivery.
These budget proposals are designed to ensure the council can meet these ambitions and that key services can be continued into the new financial year.
The three district councils currently charge different amounts for their services. Therefore, the new council needs to harmonise these amounts to ensure a fair and consistent approach across the whole area. To do this, the council has worked out a weighted average band D bill based on current charges, including those for Cumbria County Council. This results in an average Band D bill based on this year’s charges of £1,648.58.
There are a number of ways in which council tax levels can be harmonised. However, the Shadow Executive is proposing to carry out the harmonisation of council tax rates from 1 April 2023. This will mean that all residents will be paying the same across the Cumberland Council area.
Cllr Barbara Cannon, Shadow Executive member with responsibility for finance and assets, said: “We have looked at a number of ways that we could harmonise council tax across the three areas. This has included looking at carrying it out over several years, or harmonising to the levels of the current highest or lowest bills.
“However, we feel that the approach we are proposing is the fairest as it means that everyone pays the same across the new Cumberland area from day one, and it secures the revenue needed to provide the vital public services required by our residents.”
The Council is aware of the financial pressures and cost of living crisis, and the pressure this places on households. The Council will therefore continue to provide the council tax reduction scheme to help those on low incomes. This will provide up to 100% council tax discount for qualifying households.
The council also has to manage these inflationary increases, and it is more important than ever that it continues to provide the vital public services so many people rely on.
Therefore, the council is also proposing an increase of 4.99% in council tax bills from 1 April 2023. This is a 2.99% base increase, and 2% for adult social care.
As a result, the average band D bill would increase to £1,730.84, or an average annual rise of £82.26 or just £1.58 a week. For a band A property, the annual rise weekly increase equates to £1.05.
This percentage rise is also around half the current rate of inflation.
Cllr Cannon added: “This is not an easy decision for us, as we know people are struggling financially. But we also know that many of our residents depend on the services we provide. We are also at the mercy of the same inflationary pressures affecting people and organisations up and down the country. Therefore, to maintain those services, we are proposing to increase our council tax by 4.99%, which in itself remains way below the current rate of inflation.
“But we do want to do what we can to help those most in need. That’s why we recently improved the council tax reduction scheme to make it easier for them to get the financial help they need when paying their bill.
“I would therefore encourage everyone to have their say on this important matter, so that we can get the budget right and set the new Cumberland Council on a sustainable financial footing from day one.”
Anyone wishing to have their say can go to the Shadow Authority for Cumberland Council website and follow the links.
Hard copies of the consultation will be available from local libraries and council offices throughout the Cumberland Council area.
The consultation ends on 31 January 2023. The draft budget will be considered by the Shadow Executive and then the Shadow Council in the new year.