Wirral council tax likely to rise following unanimous budget support

Everyone who pays Council Tax in Wirral should expect to see a rise in April with average households seeing a nearly £90 increase.

The change is expected to be approved later this month in a vote by all Wirral councillors at a meeting on 26 February after it got the unanimous endorsement and support of all political parties at a senior Policy and Resources committee on 13 February.

The local authority is looking to save £12.4m in the next financial year from April and said the tax rise on top of this would be needed to avoid cuts to frontline services.

Wirral Council is expected to raise £8.61m by increasing the amount of Council Tax people 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 February 13 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, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, and Police and Crime Commissioner are set.

Behind closed doors, councillors have been negotiating the various proposals put forward by council officers as Wirral Council prepares to set its revenue budget for the next financial year which will run between April 2024 and March 2025. This sets 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.

On top of the Council Tax rise, Wirral Council will also be looking to save £12.39m by increasing fees and charges, cutting business efficiencies, and changing how services are provided. 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.

At the 13 February meeting, councillors from Labour, Conservative, Green, and Liberal Democrat parties praised the budget brought forward by officers. No political party has overall control in the local authority meaning support from at least two parties is needed to pass it.

Wirral council leader Cllr Paul Stuart thanked councillors for working together, adding the budget “demonstrates the council’s commitment to produce a stable and prudent financial basis to operate from and recognises the finite resources that we do have. We are putting them to good use.”

He also proposed using some of the £400,000 saved by closing Wallasey Town Hall for another year until April 2025 to contribute £246,000 towards a £1m special project fund aimed at improving Wirral. This was approved by the committee.

However following a question from Conservative councillor Jeff Green about any proposed budget changes, Cllr Stuart pleaded for political parties to give a heads up if they did want to put forward any amendments, warning “it would not be conducive to a working relationship if the first time we get to see it is five calendar days beforehand.”

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