Council tax to rise by 3.99 per cent for Wakefield households: Council leader Denise Jeffery explains decision

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The leader of Wakefield Council has said she was reluctant to impose another above-inflation rise in council tax, but insists the authority has been left with no other option in order to maintain its current service.

Households across the district will see their overall council tax bill rise by 3.99 per cent from April, for the second year running. Two per cent of that is attributed to the social care precept, which goes directly towards looking after elderly and vulnerable adults.

The rise equates to an extra £38.50 a year for someone living in a Band A property - the least expensive category.

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Coun Jeffery said she'd considered imposing a smaller increase, but that pressures from Covid and on social care had forced the hike.

Council tax will rise again in April.Council tax will rise again in April.
Council tax will rise again in April.

Local Labour members have been repeatedly critical of the government for delaying a new social care bill, which was promised in 2017 to offer a long-term solution to funding services nationwide.

In the meantime councils are being expected to levy funds for social care.

Coun Jeffery said: "This is not something we wanted to do.

"We did try to toy with the idea of keeping it lower, but it's not about a quick fix this year. It's about future years and building on the base we have.

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Coun Denise Jeffery said the increase was "not something we wanted to do".Coun Denise Jeffery said the increase was "not something we wanted to do".
Coun Denise Jeffery said the increase was "not something we wanted to do".

"We have lobbied the government to say, "Why should council tax payers pay for social care?"

"We feel that's something they should be paying for themselves."

The local authority says the rise will help to plug a near £26m gap in its budget, after successive lockdowns have seen its income hit.

The tax rise will cover almost £6m of that figure, including £3m for adult social care. The remainder will be funded by efficiency savings and receipts from newly built homes.

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The council's new chief executive, Andrew Balchin, insisted the organisation would offer "value for money" and pointed to investment in areas that residents have asked to be prioritised.

£1.8m will be spent on rolling out two hours free parking across the district from April.

There will also be an extra £500,000 for parks and green spaces, while another £600,000 will go towards programmes helping people back into employment.

Money will also continue to flow into the council's children's services, as well as into new social housing and other infrastructure projects.

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Mr Balchin said: "We know it's a difficult thing to say to residents, and we're very conscious that residents are having a tough time financially at the moment.

"But we do need to draw on that additional income so we can make a sustainable budget for the future.

"Around a third of our spend every year also goes to local suppliers, so that's an important part of keeping our economy going and recovering."

Around 30,000 people across the district are currently claiming council tax support to help them pay their bills, a figure Coun Jeffery conceded would "probably" rise this year as the economy continues to struggle.

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The local authority says that no-one will be given a "free ride", but that those genuinely unable to afford the cost will be treated fairly.

Coun Jeffery said: "We have put mechanisms in place so we can help people.

"It wouldn't be a good thing for us to pursue people who genuinely can't pay, so we shall be sympathetic and help people as much as we can."

The council's budget for the next financial year will go before its elected members for debate next month.

Local Democracy Reporting Service

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