Sheffield council to end tax freeze

Julie Dore
Julie Dore
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SHEFFIELD City Council is to increase council tax for the first time in five years as it looks to fill a £63 million hole in its budget.

The authority is set to raise its part of the council tax bill by 1.99 per cent - the maximum it is allowed to increase under Government rules without triggering a public referendum.

Up to 200 council jobs could also be at risk with the ruling Labour group laying the blame firmly at the door of the Government.

The authority’s grant from the Government has been cut by half since 2010 as local government funding has been squeezed.

Council leader Julie Dore said: “I have to say I have found this the toughest budget to deliver and to balance without a doubt.

“I feel like we are getting to the bone. It’s really getting down to the bones of the budget, we have taken so much flesh off it now it gets to the point where you are thinking where can the next penny come from?”

The council will looks to save £38 million from services including libraries and parks although no individual facility is expected to close.

The authority is also renegotiating contracts with companies providing services to the council such as Capita.

Those contracts include the authority’s deal with Amey covering areas such as streetlighting, cleaning and gritting.

Cuts to gritting have proved hugely controversial in the city with a series of incidents in recent weeks leading the authority to reverse previous reductions in service.

The council has said renegotiating the Amey deal will focus on finding efficiencies rather than reducing service levels.

Council chief executive John Mothersole said: “We’ve said in the past one of things that we are having to do is actually be very close to the wire on a range of issues and hopefully stay in the right side of the wire.

“I think the winter gritting just proves how close we are to those margins, of tipping from acceptibility to unnacceptability.”

The Government has offered councils an addition grant equivalent to a one per cent rise in council tax to authorities who freeze their bills.

Sheffield City Council will raise £1.3 million over what it would get from the so-called ‘freeze grant’ by increasing bills.

The proposed increase will take the Sheffield City Council charge on the council tax bill for a band D property to around £1,308 although the final bill will be higher when it takes in police and fire charges.