Wakefield budget 2024: Maximum council tax rise and £21m savings plan to go to vote

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Councillors in Wakefield are being asked to vote for a maximum council tax rise of 4.99% and a package of cost savings worth £21m.

The Labour-run local authority has finalised budget proposals designed to plug a £33m funding gap for the 2024/25 financial year.

The council’s cabinet said the spending plan would “minimise” the impact of a lack of funding from national government.

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Proposals include a 2.99% rise in council tax, plus a further 2% increase in the adult social care levy.

Councillors in Wakefield are being asked to vote for a maximum council tax rise of 4.99% and a package of cost savings worth £21m.Councillors in Wakefield are being asked to vote for a maximum council tax rise of 4.99% and a package of cost savings worth £21m.
Councillors in Wakefield are being asked to vote for a maximum council tax rise of 4.99% and a package of cost savings worth £21m.

The combined increase would see those in council tax band D pay an extra £81.56 a year, equivalent to £1.57 per week.

For those in band A, the combined increase would be £54.37.

The Conservative opposition group wants the overall increase to be limited to 2% and has called on the council to spend more of its reserves to help residents.

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Proposed cuts include selling off Castleford Civic Centre and saving £3.5m by not replacing vacant council jobs.

Nadeem Ahmed.Nadeem Ahmed.
Nadeem Ahmed.

Revenue generating plans include increasing car parking charges across the district.

Jack Hemingway, deputy leader of the council, outlined the proposals at a meeting on January 13.

He said: “The council is very aware that it is a difficult time for everyone across the district.

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“This means that our council has to be even more focussed on the priorities of the residents and businesses.

Wakefield Council deputy leader Jack Hemingway.Wakefield Council deputy leader Jack Hemingway.
Wakefield Council deputy leader Jack Hemingway.

“The budget will help deliver the updated corporate plan which sets out our ambition to improve the lives of residents and make sure our district has a sustainable future.

“In spite of the challenges we face, the council will still deliver for its residents and the budget does include investment into key services such as adult social care, children’s services, council refuse collection, as well as additional funding to tackle and support homelessness.”

Local authorities have a legal responsibility to set balanced budgets each year.

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Coun Hemingway said: “We are committed to doing this responsibly.

“The council is committed to minimise as far as possible the impact of government funding cuts on the delivery of our priority services.

“The proposals do include an increase in council tax, which is not a decision we have taken lightly.”

“This is vital to ensure we can maintain essential services for residents, particularly those vulnerable residents who rely upon them.”

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The council tax increase is expected to raise an extra £8.7m of funding for the local authority.

Coun Hemingway said residents had been supportive of the proposals during a public consultation.

He added: “I think that shows you that people do understand the really difficult position that local services are in.

“One of the frustrating things we see as local politicians is not only are we getting funding cuts from government, we are also getting additional responsibility.

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“Look at things like social care, where they have shifted the burden from central government to local government.

“We have no choice but to increase the social care levy if we want to look after our elderly and vulnerable people.

“It puts us in a really difficult position but with this budget we have got the right balance of taking the tough decisions to safeguard services for local people.”

Les Shaw, portfolio holder for resources and property said: “I think there is a sense out there in the country about the cut backs over the years that have affected councils.

“We don’t want to impose taxes on our residents.

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“But we have to get the funding in to support not just vulnerable people but people from all sides of society.

“If we didn’t impose this council tax on our residents, where are we going to get the money from?”

The proposals will go before a full council meeting for approval on February 28.

The Tory group has submitted an amendment calling for a freeze of the council tax charge, with just the adult social care levy being imposed.

Group leader Nadeem Ahmed said: “Most people are just completely spent up now.

“They can’t afford to pay these increases year after year and it’s time we gave them some help.”