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Stafford Borough Council looks to increase council tax by almost two per cent

Residents will face an almost two per cent rise in council tax across Stafford next year – despite chiefs having the power to hike it up further.

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The rising cost of of living for families across Stafford Borough has made the council reluctant to impose a larger tax rise, a senior member has said.

The proposed increase for 2023/24 means residents in Band D properties will see the tax they pay for bin collections, parks and other borough council services go up by around 6p a week, or £3.14 for the year, from £165.38 to £168.52 in April. The council’s proposed budget will be discussed at meetings in the new year before being put forward for approval.

This autumn the Government lifted the maximum council tax increase local authorities can propose without triggering a referendum from two per cent to three per cent. Authorities responsible for social care, such as Staffordshire County Council, have also been able to impose a further increase to help fund these services in recent years.

Councils across the country are now looking ahead to the new year to set their budgets for 2023/24. And the process is being made more challenging by rising costs, as well as uncertainty about how local government will be funded in the years to come.

Stafford Borough Council’s cabinet member for resources, Mike Smith, spoke of the financial pressures at a meeting on Thursday). He said: “I believe the cost of living is already causing distress to our residents and I want to minimise any further costs to households.

“The same financial pressure we are feeling as individuals due to inflation is also being felt by the council. The cost of pay rises and energy bills have a particularly large impact and we are not increasing our income in proportion to our costs.

“This means we have to make savings. We have tried to choose options that minimise any impact on our services and of the proposed shortfall between income and expenditure next year I am proposing half will be funded from reserves and half from savings and new income.

“There are no easy choices. We have a limited increase in fees and charges and are freezing car parking and garden waste collection charges."

He added: “It is only through prudent management of the council’s finances over the years that has enabled us to use some of our reserves. Many other local authorities across the country are facing far harsher decisions, including the closure of services, and some are even issuing warnings they will run out of money over the next few years – but that is not the case for Stafford Borough.”

There were underspends in budgets at the end of 2021/22 and a further “small underspend” is forecast at the end of this year, Councillor Smith told fellow cabinet members. He added: “We’ve taken the sensible decision to set aside a portion of the 2021/22 underspend and use it to subsidise the 2023/24 budget through a budget support reserve.”

A cabinet report said that it was proposed to use £899,000 reserves to help fill the budget gap. Savings totalling £876,000 are also proposed for 2023/24, which include those expected through the sharing of services with Cannock Chase Council.