Council Tax freeze for sixth year in a row (07/02/13)

Link to committee report

At a special meeting today (Thursday) The Highland Council has agreed to freeze the Council Tax for a sixth successive year and confirmed a budget of £548.436 million for 2013-14.

The Council Tax bands will remain: Band A: £775.33; Band B: £904.56;  Band C: £1,033.78; Band D: £1,163.00; Band E: £1,421.44; Band F: £1,679.89; Band G: £1,938.33; Band H: £2,326.00.

Savings of £11.612 million have been agreed in the coming financial year, a further £12.157 million agreed for 2014/15, leaving £3.3 million to be found for 2014/15 when the proposed budget is £547.625 million.

The Council also agreed to contain the average weekly rent increase to £1.35 or 2%, the average rent rising from £67.60 to £68.95. A 2% increase is also to be applied to hostel rents, gypsy/traveller site pitches, garage and garage sites as well as caretaking and CCTV services.

Highlights of the budget are: -

  1. A commitment to spend an additional £3million per annum for the next two years on Preventative Spend, with allocations in 2013/14 of £1m each for early years, deprivation, and shifting the balance of care (adult integrated care).
  2. £2 million additional funding towards roads maintenance to improve road conditions in 2013/14. (This is a continuation of the sum allocated in 2012/13 on a one-off basis).
  3. £1 million for Children’s Services to provide for the demand and pressure in out of authority placements, pending a review of service options for the future delivery of the service.
  4. Implementation of the Living Wage at £7.50 per hour, which will benefit some 1,400 Council employees.
  5. Agree to fund a national pay offer of 1% for staff in each year – the first increase for three years.
  6. £864,000 of additional Council resources has been set aside for Welfare Reform. Of this sum £614,000 has been provided to maintain council tax benefit at its existing level, rather than pass on the 10% cut in benefit imposed by the UK Government. A further £250,000 will allow the Council to recruit additional staff, and provide additional funding to CABx, in order to provide a much greater level of support, and proactive advice, to those vulnerable people in the Highlands most impacted by these welfare reforms.
  7. 7. An additional £100,000 has been set aside to improve planning performance and services to the public.

The Council has already set aside £1 million from balances in 2012/13 for the Community Challenge Fund launched in January 2013.

The Council agreed to remove the existing 10% Council Tax reduction of long-term empty domestic properties and instead levy a full 100% Council tax charge with effect from 1 April 2013.  This situation will be reviewed within the first year.  Any additional income will be retained locally with decisions on use to be considered by the Council.


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