4.99 per cent tax rise in Walsall 'is good value for money'

Residents in Walsall are facing a near-five per cent rise in their council tax bills as the authority balances its books in the face of financial pressures.

Walsall Council leader Mike Bird
Walsall Council leader Mike Bird

Walsall Council’s cabinet approved corporate budget plan for the next three years at a meeting held on Wednesday with a 4.99 per cent tax increase from April this year.

This will include three per cent ring-fenced for social care services and just falls within the five per cent the Government permitted councils to increase bills.

Dudley, Wolverhampton and Staffordshire councils are increasing taxes by the same amount, while tax in Sandwell is increasing by 2.99 per cent.

As well as the council tax rise, Walsall Council leader Mike Bird said they have also identified £29 million worth of ‘savings’ from services across the authority in order to set the legally required balanced budget.

Prior to coronavirus, Councillor Bird said the authority had been in a strong financial position.

He said the increase in council tax would equate to 24p a day for people living in ‘Band D’ properties or 16p daily for those in Band A households.

Councillor Bird said: “The vast majority of residents will see an increase of less than 24p as 68 per cent of residents are in Band A or B, increasing to 84 per cent when we include Band C. I like to believe that is good value for money for the services we offer.

“Our gross expenditure for 2021/22 is £658 million – 56 per cent of which is funded through Government grants and only 20 per cent of council tax. That is to dispel the myth that council tax funds all the services – that is not true.”

Councillor Bird said a large amount of savings were being achieved through the Walsall Proud Programme – launched in 2019 and aimed at transforming the way the authority worked and deliver savings of around £30million over three years.

The shortfall is also being made up of budget cuts across all directorates and increases or introduction of fees and charges for some services provided by the council.

Councillor Bird did confirm major investment will be made in areas including care services, improving the town’s transport infrastructure, education and skills, district centres and waste management.

He said: “The council must legally set a balanced budget and our core Government settlement does not provide us with sufficient funding for all our cost pressures. Therefore we have to identify savings or increase our income.

“Our budget is balanced for the next three years. We are investing significantly in our front-line services, caring for our young, elderly and vulnerable residents.

“The 12 councils I believe have approached the Government for support. We’re not one of them. Pre-Covid, the council was in a strong financial position.

“There are many council’s around the country who will look at us with envy and I’m proud of that.”

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