Council tax freeze following budget approval

Council tax for Telford & Wrekin will be frozen for the second year running with a commitment to freeze it again the following year, after approval of the authority’s budget.

Council tax freeze following budget approval

The Council approved the budget package which would see council tax frozen until 2017, while supporting a number of new initiatives.

The budget includes an extra £2.5 million cushion to support adult social care services from deeper cuts and a series one off investments funded from resources available from the current financial year thanks to the Council’s careful financial management.

The Council is also generating additional income from growth in business rates due to the success of the council’s business winning approach.

The borough’s economy has grown by almost 50% more than the national average over the last 3 years, new companies are moving into the borough and others expanding bringing both jobs and additional business rates – some of which the Council can keep to help protect front line services.  This extra income from new business and growth is forecast to be worth £10m next year. 

The budget will also fund a number of new initiatives to further support the Council’s priorities including:
• A £1 million fund to boost high streets and the borough’s district centres, to help these to attract more visitors and business, which areas can bid for.
• Free swimming for residents over 50 free at council pools from next month until 2020 to help improve health. Under 16s in the borough already swim for free. This will give 54% of the borough’s population access to free swimming for free.
• £1 million to run the Community Pride Fund again in 2017/18, which community groups and businesses can bid for. The first such fund run in 2014 was hugely oversubscribed with applications for the £1 million fund totalling £2.5 million
• £650,000 to support regeneration in St Georges, including funding to help refurbish the Council-owned Gower St former youth centre
• An additional £250,000 to support events to help attract more visitors to the borough and promote it as a destination.
• £270,000 to support the Council’s initiative with Just Credit Union for their CU Smart ethical alternative to expensive pay day loans, which launched last month, and to continue support for Telford Crisis Network’s foodbank.
• Spending almost £4 million to help roll out superfast broadband to parts of the borough where there is no broadband infrastructure and where none is planned. This 2 year scheme, expected to begin later this year, when complete will see 96% of borough homes and businesses have superfast broadband coverage 
• An additional £750,000 to boost the Council £13.8m Pride in Your Community programme and to continue the work of the Parish Environmental Action Teams until 2017. There are currently nine of these teams funded by Telford & Wrekin and parish and town councils to carry out extra work to make these areas even cleaner and greener.
• Investing £650,000 to continue the Council’s Job Box campaign and other initiatives to tackle youth unemployment which has already seen this halved in the borough in the last year
• Investing £750,000  to protect Children’s Safeguarding from deeper cuts, in addition to the £2.5m extra funding for Adult Social Care.

The increase in support for Adult Social Care was one of the main changes made to the budget following public consultation which saw around 1,600 people  give their views to the council on its proposals.

Cllr Bill McClements, cabinet member for finance and enterprise, said: “Against a backdrop of four years of unprecedented cuts in Government funding, it is an achievement for a council to achieve the cuts it must find, and still deliver a budget that offers so many positive investments for its community.

“The overwhelming feedback from the many people I spoke with during our budget consultation showed their support for what we are doing to make Telford and Wrekin a place to invest in and create new jobs and growth.

“We have also listened to people’s concerns, in particular around Adult Social Care but many of the investments we are making would not be possible without the success the borough has made in attracting new business and growth worth £10m extra a year to the Council - money that is directly supporting vital services for vulnerable children and adults.”