Council tax bills for people in Wakefield set to rise as Budget proposals unveiled

Council tax bills are set to rise again for Wakefield households amid rising demand for services, under proposals.

By David Spereall
Friday, 14th January 2022, 10:42 am

Ratepayers are likely to see an increase of 1.99 per cent kick in in April, with a two per cent precept to fund adult social care levied on top of that.

For a Band A property, this will see bills rise by around £40 a year to £1,038.30, once the precept is taken into account.

The leader of Wakefield Council, Denise Jeffery, blamed the increase on a lack of government support for councils and said the move had not been taken "lightly".

Bills will rise by a minimum of £40 a year, once the social care precept is taken into account.

Local authorities across the country are increasing council tax, with inflation and the costs of looking after the most vulnerable people in society spiralling.

Councils generally spend more than half of their budgets on children's services and care for the elderly, but with demand for their help rising, they've lobbied ministers for more cash.

The government's described the financial package they've given councils this year as "comprehensive" and say it represents the biggest cash increase for local authorities in 10 years.

But Wakefield Council says it needs to hike bills to help cover a £32m hole in its finances.

Money raised by the precept is ringfenced and can only be spent on social care.

£3m of that will be covered by the council tax increase, with a further £5m coming from cutbacks.

An extra £17m from the organisation's reserves will be used, with the remainder covered by the rise in the number of homes across Wakefield, which will naturally increase tax receipts.

Coun Jeffery said: "Year on year the government is pulling the rug from under our feet by consistently failing to adequately fund local services.

"Any extra money we are given does not go anywhere near covering the cost of inflation and rising demand for our services, particularly in social care. This inevitably means more pressure on the council budget and on council taxpayers.

Council leader Denise Jeffery said the hike was not a move the authority had taken "lightly".

“The government’s funding model makes it clear that councils are expected to increase council tax if services are to survive. I know this is yet another financial ask of residents and it is not one we have put forward lightly.

“We are doing everything we can to protect frontline services and invest in areas that matter to our residents and businesses the most. This is a council that is highly ambitious for the people of Wakefield.”

The proposals also include an increase in spending on parks and green spaces in the district and on keeping cemeteries and crematoria tidy.

Extra cash will be set aside to help local businesses, while the council also has to fork out more for National Insurance contributions, which are going up for employees and employers.

The council says it may also have to pay more money in insurance costs to Renewi, which runs local bin collections and waste disposal as part of a multi-million pound contract.

The local authority said that the increase had not been confirmed however and that it remained in negotiations with the company.

The Budget proposals will be put before all 63 of Wakefield's councillors for a debate and vote at the beginning of March.

How the adult social care precept works

The precept was introduced in 2016 to allow councils to raise extra cash themselves to pay for social care, as the government's contribution to the industry declined.

It's applied as a percentage increase on top of a core council tax bill to give a final sum.

So for example, if Wakefield Council's Budget for this year passes, the 1.99 per increase in council tax will see an annual bill for a Band A home rise from £998.08 to £1,017.94.

The precept is then applied by calculating two per cent of £1,017.94 and adding it on, to give a final bill of £1,038.30.

In previous years, any council that wanted to apply a social care precept of more than three per cent had to have the backing of local voters in the form of a referendum.

The government has now lowered that threshold to one per cent, however.

But as Wakefield Council did not apply the maximum amount permitted last year, they can apply a two per cent precept this year without the need for a referendum.

A separate precept is also normally applied by the regional Police and Crime Commissioner to help cover the costs of fighting crime, though in West Yorkshire that responsibility has now been passed to the new elected mayor, Tracy Brabin.

Local Democracy Reporting Service