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Council tax to rise again amid children’s services funding black hole

Bills are set to rise by at least £59 for Tameside residents as town hall chiefs desperately firefight a funding black hole for children’s services.

The council has to save £3.5m from its budget next year, and is planning on hiking its tax precept, fees and charges and cutting back on services to meet the shortfall.

It’s expected the plans for the next financial year will be approved at a meeting of the full council tonight (Tuesday, February 26).

Increasing its fees and charges is expected to raise £719k for the council’s coffers.

But this will see the cost of many everyday services rise – including pest control, burial and cremation charges and adult day care meals.

The price of hiring out a football pitch, marriage premises fees, allotment charges and commercial waste services are also to go up.

And bosses are preparing to use £9.3m of their reserves to support improvement in children’s services.

The financial pressure of children’s social care is the ‘single greatest risk’ currently faced by the authority, according to financial documents.

Since April 2016 the number of children coming into care has grown by nearly 50 pc, up from 435 to 650 in January of this year.

“The council continues to experience extraordinary increases in demand for children’s social care services, placing significant pressures on staff and resources,” the report states.

And the future for the authority looks even bleaker – with a projected budget deficit of £31m by 2023/24.

Cabinet member for children’s services, Councillor Oliver Ryan told the last meeting of the executive: “What’s pretty clear – and has been clear throughout this process – is that the government have been setting us up to fail to some extent.

“As the children’s services point shows, you’ve been dealing with more and more people in more complex scenarios and we’re firefighting, but we are improving.

“The government is sending us to a funding cliff edge, and as far as I’m aware – allowing us to fall off it.”

Council tax to rise

The main proposal in the budget will see residents pay at least an extra £59 a year in council tax.

People living in Band A properties, which makes up the majority of homes in Tameside, will see the local authority element of their bill go up by more than £37.

This is a 3.99pc hike in general council tax, which includes a 2pc increase in the adult social care precept.

The GMCA mayoral police and crime commissioner precept, and general mayoral precept, which includes fire services, are both expected to rise by more than 13pc.

Andy Burnham’s specific share of that precept is set to go up a massive 112 pc to fund his plans for an overhaul of bus services, which includes proposals for free bus passes for 16-18 year olds.

The so-called ‘average’ Band D property will see their total bill go up by nearly £90.

Bailiffs to pursue tax fraud

And the council has revealed it intends to use bailiffs to pursue people fraudulently claiming to live alone.

People who live on their own are entitled to a quarter off their council tax bill , however the council wants to crack down on people who are lying about their status.

A review of single person discount claimants is forecast to save £75k, documents going to full council have revealed.

They are considering utilising external bailiffs to carry out the review, or procuring a company who would carry it out each year for the next five years.

This saving will materialise as additional council tax revenue.

Adult services

An uplift in care costs for adults is among the range of charges that will increase as part of the 2019/20 budget.

The price of meals and drinks as part of day care services are set to go up by 2.5pc.

The daily cost of a meal will rise by 8p, up to £3.17.

Care costs at the authority’s learning disability respite service on Cumberland Street in Stalybridge will also be lifted by 2.5pc

And the costs of homecare are also set to go up, with the standard hourly rate up by 35p.

‘Sleeping in’ homecare will go up by an extra £1.22, while ‘night sits’ will cost an extra £2.08.

Local forums budget downsized

The creation of new ‘neighbourhood forums’ has also proved to be a cost saving measure.

Four strategic neighbourhood forums have replaced the nine former town councils in the borough which were branded ‘ineffective’.

Members voted last year to change the constitution to allow the local authority to axe the groups, which had been created less than two years previously.

A review of the support given to town councils estimates that by using existing council estate and staff, meetings can now be run more cheaply, saving £25k a year.

The saving is also expected to be recurrent over five years.

Price of dying to go up

Funeral costs are set to rise sharply if the proposals are approved by full council.

The price of a new grave, with ‘exclusive right of burial’ will rise by £95, from £755 to £850 under the budget proposals.

And for non-residents, the price tag will increase from £1,495 to £1,590.

Cremation fees are also to increase by £25, up to £715 for a person over 17 years old.

Meanwhile, grieving family members and friends who are unable to attend a funeral in person can pay to view a webcast of the service, or purchase a DVD or CD.

However all of these options are also to become more expensive, with a webcast becoming 9.1pc more pricey at £60, and recording options going up to £45.

Charges for dealing with pests and waste

The town hall is also to charge more for exterminating unwelcome pests such as bedbugs, cockroaches and rats from April 1.

The cost of trapping squirrels is to go up by £15, to £85, as will the price of treatment of ‘feral pigeons’ inside buildings.

To get the local authority to tackle bedbugs and cockroaches it’s going to cost an extra £20 – up to £140.

And commercial waste charges are also set to increase.

A 1,100 litre bin would cost an extra £32 to collect under the proposal, and a four pc increase would be applied to bins sized 240 litres and up.

The full range of proposals will be voted on by councillors on February 26.