By Charlotte Green, Local Democracy Reporter
COUNCILLORS in Tameside have agreed a maximum council tax rise of 4.99 per cent and £9 million worth of cuts for 2021/22 – including reductions in recycling collections.
At a meeting of the full council on Tuesday, February 23 a majority of members supported the budget, which means residents’ bills will rise by at least £50 from April.
However, the minority Conservative group, which had voted for previous years’ budgets put forward by the Labour administration, said they could not support such a big tax hike.
Increasing council tax by 1.99 per cent and the precept for adult social care by 3 per cent will raise an additional £4.7m, helping to bridge the local authority’s £23m budget gap.
For a Band A property this increase in council tax will equate to an extra £50.83 per year, or 98p a week.
Dry recycling collections of blue and black bins are also to move from fortnightly to once every three weeks as part of plans to cut £1.8m from the operations and neighbourhoods department.
While Labour councillor Claire Reid said the changes were subject to consultation, they are included in the budget documents as planned cuts which would save £260,000 in the next financial year, and £530,000 a year beyond that.
A Tameside Council spokesperson confirmed recently that they are undertaking a feasibility study regarding waste collection frequency, including considering pilots in a small number of areas across the borough to test out the impact of such a change.
Council leader Brenda Warrington told full council that the £23m budget gap was not a ‘sign of our inefficiency’.
She said the council tax rise was the ‘only option available to us to ensure our financial sustainability’ but she was angry they had been ‘strong-armed’ into the measure by the government.
“More cuts are necessary in this budget,” Coun Warrington added. “And unfortunately our financial forecast up to 2026 predicts that further cuts will also be required in the years ahead.
“This is a choice that we would have much rather not had to make but the impact of over a decade of austerity and the betrayal of fair funding promises means that we are not the only local authority who have had to make these decisions to consider the maximum.”
She added that the coronavirus pandemic had ‘thrown into sharp contrast the endemic inequalities in our nation’.
“It gives me no pleasure to say that at a time when concrete action on fair funding is needed more than ever the promise that was made to us back in March last year that we would be given whatever it takes, that has proven to be very hollow words,” she said.
“The financial pressure faced by local authorities up and down the country as a result of the pandemic remains very challenging.”
Tory deputy opposition leader Councillor Ruth Welsh said their group of five was not big enough to offer an alternative budget, but they were opposing the administration plans.
“Tameside Council relies on government grants and council tax hikes, it need not be this way,” she claimed.
“4.99 per cent is a large increase at any time but in a year where many people’s lives and finances are changed beyond recognition we feel it’s far too big of an ask for our residents so we won’t be supporting the rise.”