Council Tax in Wirral is expected to rise by nearly 5% this year as the local authority looks to save £12.4m.
Wirral Council is preparing to set its revenue budget for the next financial year which will run between April 2024 and March 2025 setting out what the council plans to spend money on when it comes to running services like libraries, parks, bin collections, and other day-to-day services.
Councils every year have to set a balanced budget as they cannot borrow to fund services otherwise they may have to declare bankruptcy and many are expected to increase Council Tax to balance their budgets.
An additional £600m was recently announced by the government across England to help address council budget issues
Wirral Council is expected to raise £8.61m by increasing the amount people living in Wirral pay by 4.99%, the maximum allowed by the government without a referendum, with 2% going towards adult social care, one of the biggest costs to the local authority’s budget.
According to a report presented to councillors at a 13 February Policy and Resources committee, the rise is needed “in order to secure future streams of funding that will moderate cuts to key services in the future” with every 1% contributing £1.7m to council services.
This rise will see the average Band D household’s Council Tax increase by nearly £90 but officers have warned that if councillors do not agree to this, this could see services people use cut in order to balance the budget.
This rise is also before additional charges related to Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and Police and Crime Commissioner are set.
On top of the Council Tax rise, Wirral Council will also be looking to save £12.39m by increasing fees and charges, cutting business inefficiencies, and changing how services are provided – but no services will be stopped.
One of the biggest savings will be a target of £1.3m related to the Floral Pavilion theatre in New Brighton where the council will pursue “a series of efficiency measures aimed at reducing the net operational costs of the service” as it looks to find an alternative operator for the theatre to secure it going forward. An update and a decision related to this is expected in March.
It will also look to review whether to move Birkenhead Central and Wallasey Central libraries to other locations. It will also save £1.1m looking at moving children into foster placements and out of higher cost residential care while it hopes to save £4.8m by reviewing the cost effectiveness of adult social care.
Funding for schools for the next financial year is also expected to move forward at the same meeting though funding from the government has come up short with schools are expected to face a nearly £10m deficit this year by March. This will be covered by the use of reserves and means that going forward, school budgets will have a deficit of nearly £21m from April 2024 to March 2025.