Extra funding will go towards adult social care
Council tax will rise in Merton by 3% - with the increase being used to fund adult social care in the borough.
Merton Council agreed on Wednesday (March 1) to commit an extra £9 million in its 2017/18 budget to fund care services for older and disabled residents.
It means the Labour-led council is breaking an election pledge it made in 2014 to keep council tax frozen. It’s also the first rise rise 2011.
However, most English councils made use of powers offered by the Government to increase council tax last year by up to 2% to fund adult social care. Merton controversially chose to freeze council tax at that stage - making it only one of a handful of councils in England to do so.
Now it says it has responded to what the Local Government Association calls a “national crisis in adult social care”.
In a statement, Merton said the Government hasn’t given the council any extra money to deal with the adult social care crisis, but instead expects councils to charge a new adult social care precept.
The council also points out that it agreed, for the fifth year running, to absorb the Government’s 2012 reduction in council tax support, ensuring residents on low incomes continue to receive the same amount of council tax support as in previous years. Merton is only one of a handful of the 300 councils across the country to have kept this support in place.
Merton Council cabinet member for finance Councillor Mark Allison said: “Merton has always been a great place for families, and we’re going to keep it that way. Many families are going through tough financial times and, with the Government slashing the money it gives us to provide local services, councils like ours are also feeling the pinch.
“The Government have allowed a national crisis to develop in care services for older people, but haven’t given us any extra money to solve it. Instead they are expecting councils to introduce a new council tax increase, the precept.
“Despite government mismanagement, we are running the council in a business-like way, with a new school, a new library and a new leisure centre all on the way. We are doing wonders to make this a great place for families to live and grow up, but the government needs to take responsibility for its failings and help us to do even more.”
But Councillor Oonagh Moulton, Leader of Merton Conservative Group, said: "Council finances are on a cliff edge and it's Merton Labour who must take responsibility.
"Labour councillors' years of financial mismanagement and bad decisions have come home to roost. Their failure to deliver their own savings, maximise commercial revenue and plan for the future has led to a massive £18million hole in the budget by 2020. This year alone they are forecast to overspend by over £6million. No wonder they have had to break their election promise to freeze council tax.
"Conservative councillors are worried about what this means for Merton's families, children, elderly and disabled residents. That's why we have set out a new approach to balance the books.
"Just like Jeremy Corbyn, Labour can't be trusted with finances. Merton's residents deserve better."
The budget papers can be read in full on the council’s website.
What do you think? Why not comment on our forum?
March 3, 2017