Bit late with this for one reason or another but I wanted to do a write up on Trafford’s Budget for 20/21.
Unlike the national Government, councils only have a few ways that they can raise income to spend on our behalf.
- Council Tax – the obvious one levied in 8 bands. Regressive, the more valuable your property, the less the rate of council tax you pay as a percentage of its value. And we have some very valuable properties.
- Fees and Charges – Some councils make as much from parking charges and fines than they take from council tax. Westminster Council takes in more than £80m from parking alone. Then you have all the bus lane infringement type penalties etc. Westminster Council has the lowest council tax in the country and some of the most expensive properties. Tourists are money!
- Central Government Funding and Business Rates – Trafford’s business rates are pooled with the other Greater Manchester Authorities before they come back to us, but whilst the rates themselves are set by Government there’s still financial incentive for us to support business growth.
Government Grants are by nature subject to the vagaries of central government’s priorities. Increasingly we are seeing Government ministers claiming they are putting money into social care when all they’ve really done is to allow councils to increase council tax.
- Income from investment – Trafford’s asset investment strategy gives a sustainable revenue stream whilst facilitating development and regeneration and also supporting local authority functions.
- Reserves – Trafford traditionally has held low reserves compared to other councils.
This year’s budget changes
- Trafford’s net budget is increasing from £169.94m to £175.20m or 3%.
- Council Tax is increasing by 3.99%
You can see from those two figures above we’re putting more in than we get back. This Tory Government is still not pulling its weight and it’s leaving council tax payers to make up the difference.
I’m particularly pleased we’re taking £3.8m from the budget support reserve to invest in measures which are expected to increase the quality of services and lead to reduced demand on Children’s Services.
- We’re increasing the amount we’re able to borrow for asset investment. It’s going to be £500m we can take our investment borrowing up to. So far this strategy is working. I would not abandon the strategy, but I do think we need increasing levels of oversight. The fund is now nearly twice the size originally envisaged.
- Fees and charges are generally going up modestly.
I am really pleased that Labour controlled Trafford (now entering it’s third year) is continuing to soundly manage the council’s finances. I take a little bit of pride in that, as it was something I really wanted to impress on colleagues and officers in that first year. Tom Ross my successor as cabinet member for finance has improved on this and it’s great to see the investment going into children’s services. We saw what happened in Conservative controlled Northamptonshire with the leadership there bankrupting a council. We will not allow that to happen in Trafford.
The levels of council tax rises that all councils are having to impose does worry me. The council tax system is not designed to carry that weight. It is too much of a burden on young families starting out in life where all their income is being directed to mortgage and family. We should not be placing the financial burden of social care so much on the council tax system. That really needs addressing by central government. We won’t be able to shift it all at once but we urgently need to start the transition to a national care service.