Sandwell tax rise ‘too high’ says Labour councillor

A proposed Sandwell Council tax rise of 2.99 per cent has been criticised as too high by a Labour councillor while services are cut back due to Covid.

Councillor Paul Moore
Councillor Paul Moore

Councillor Paul Moore has said the increase will be a ‘hard sell’ while areas such as garden waste collections and fly-tipping teams are working at reduced levels.

Questioning the rise, the Hateley Heath ward councillor disagreed with his own party’s ruling cabinet, saying: “Obviously we all know we are going through a worldwide pandemic at the moment but in terms of the level of service people in Sandwell are receiving, things like litter collection bin collections, repairs, etc, have been disrupted.

“It’s going to be a bitter pill to swallow any increase in council tax given the level of services people are receiving.”

Questioning the rise in the basic rate he said he supported a rise of 1.99 to pay for adult social care.

Councillor Moore added: “It’s a bit of a hard sell to go out to communities and say you’ve got to pay more council tax given the level of disruption this year.”

His comments came as senior finance officers revealed the authority is facing a £13 million hole in its budget those year, which is having to be plugged by £11 million reserves.

Necessary

Sandwell Council’s cabinet has recommended the basic rate of council tax should go up by 1.99 per cent while an additional one per cent is ring-fenced for adult social care.

Councillor Luke Giles, chair of the budget and corporate scrutiny management board, added residents should be told why the rise was necessary.

He said: “From the public’s perspective, there is a lot that is not being done and if we have got to put it up then we have to give the public the full detail and explain why it’s increasing.”

Councillor Wasim Ali, cabinet member for resources and core services, responded by saying Sandwell has seen services decline as staff absence had increased due to Covid and the cost of temporary agency workers had risen.

Saying senior councillors did debate whether an increase was needed, he added: “What we definitely found is that we have to have a council tax rise because if you look at the budget for next year we will have to make cuts.

“Our priority is we keep the services we have as much as possible and in order to do that we have to have money in the kitty.”

He added that the proposed council tax rise is the lowest in the West Midlands.

The budget will now go forward to cabinet before being debated by full council which gives final approval.

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