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‘Three out of five’ back 3.99 tax hike, says Leeds City Council

Three out of five people surveyed by Leeds City Council agree with the authority’s plans to raise council tax by 3.99 per cent, a report has claimed, writes Richard Beecham.

As part of its budget proposals for the 2019/20 financial year, the authority held a survey to ask more than 1,000 members of the public their thoughts on the spending plans.

Part of those plans include increasing council tax by 2.99 per cent, adding an extra one per cent precept to go towards adult social care.

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The report claims hundreds of Leeds residents believe the charges are already too high, and that money is not being spent in the right places – but maintained most of those respondents supported the proposals, despite similar council tax rises last year.

What are the council’s plans?

Initial budget proposals released in December have recently been updated following confirmation about funding from central government and the consultation.

Leeds City Council states main government funding for Leeds will reduce by another £15.2m next year, and that added pressure on existing services means the cuts won’t make up the gap.

It therefore needs to find savings of £22m – and is planning on cuts to its services and a reduction in its workforce by around 69 full time equivalent members of staff.

The authority is also proposing a 2.99 per cent rise in council tax, with an additional one per cent precept to support the rising pressures on adult social care services.

What does the report say?

Out of 1,241 members of the public who took part in the survey, the authority maintains more than half supported the proposals to increase council tax – despite an increase of 4.99 per cent the previous year.

The report stated: “Participants were informed that we propose to increase the core council tax in Leeds by 2.99 per cent, plus an additional one per cent to support adult social care services.

“They were then asked how much they agree or
disagree with our proposals. In total over three in five respondents agreed with our approach (62 per cent).”

The report stated 1,241 responded were received. Around 58 per cent of these were completed by Leeds City Council’s citizen’s panel.

What about the people who disagreed – what did they say?

The council claims that those who disagreed with the council’s approach were asked why – and that 498 comments were made from 427 respondents.

Of these, 131 said council tax was too high, with many commenting that rates are rising faster than wages and was too high already.

Some even claimed they would struggle to pay, with one comment stating:

“I’m struggling to afford the council tax as it stands now. It is the biggest bill I have after my mortgage. Households are making their own cutbacks already plus the uncertainty of Brexit around the corner.”

Another read:

“Being a pensioner this increase is above the amount my state pension will increase by next year, given increases in fuel costs, the likely massive price increases we will see because of Brexit this means OAPs are going to face a serious cut in our standards of living, which increases the risk of going without essentials.”

What else did the survey show?

Respondents were then shown the council’s ranking of all its services by importance, and were asked which they felt the council should treat with a higher or lower importance

The council listed “Keeping children safe” and “supporting older and vulnerable people” as its top two services in terms of importance.

However, 175 people felt that “preventing and tackling homelessness” should be higher up the council’s list of priorities – currently tenth.

One comment read:

“Supporting the homeless population should be higher on the agenda, homelessness has increased and the number of deaths of homeless people has also increased.”

Another read:

“I think tackling homelessness should be a much higher priority. I believe it is shameful that people do not have a roof over their heads and that homelessness also costs the city in other ways – health care, drug addiction etc. Tackling this issue would help reduce pressure in other areas as well.”

What happens next?

A full Leeds City Council meeting is set to take place on Wednesday, February 27, where the budget is expected to be passed.

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