Herefordshire residents in receipt of support with their council tax will see that support maintained in 2015/16 despite unprecedented budget pressures.
All councils across the country need to make savings in light of significant government funding reductions and Herefordshire Council needs to do the same.
Over a six year period from 2011 to 2017, we have to save nearly £70 million. To date we have saved £34 million, but we still need to save an additional £33 million in the next three years.
It is not just funding reductions we face but also an increasing population with additional needs, particularly in priority areas such as children and young people and adult social care.
Cllr Johnson, cabinet member corporate strategy and finance considered a report giving options for revisions to the current council tax reduction scheme, which sets out the level of council tax support available to those on the lowest incomes.
The council’s medium term financial strategy had forecast that the level of support offered would need to be reduced as part of the council’s overall savings plan, resulting in those in receipt of certain benefits paying a greater percentage of their council tax.
Several factors have affected the decision to safeguard the current level of council tax support for those in need in the county:
- The council recovered higher levels of council tax in 2014/15 than had originally been estimated, reducing the level of saving needed in 2015/16.
- Further work needs to be undertaken to better understand the economic impacts on families of a further reduction in the level of support provided coinciding with national changes to welfare benefits.
- Responses to the consultation indicated the concerns some residents and support agencies felt about the negative impacts of a further reduction in support.
Taking all these factors into consideration, Cllr Johnson has determined that no change will be proposed to the scheme in the coming year. Commenting on his decision Cllr Johnson said:
“Whilst we continue to face considerable financial challenges as a council, having listened to the views of those who would be directly affected and taking account of the very positive progress we have made as a council to further reduce costs elsewhere, I know that those currently in receipt of council tax support will be relieved to know that this level of support will remain in place for a further year.”