Ealing Council’s cabinet will consider proposals to increase council tax by 1.99% when it meets on Wednesday, 9 February.
Cabinet will discuss the plans as part of the council’s draft Medium Term Financial Strategy (MTFS). The MTFS sets out the council’s spending, savings, and investments for the financial year ahead. By law, the council must balance its budget, demonstrating through the MTFS that it can afford to pay for its planned activities.
If cabinet agrees, all councillors will have the opportunity to vote on whether to introduce the rise when Full Council meets on Tuesday, 1 March.
Cabinet will also discuss whether to add the government’s 1% social care precept to council tax bills. The social care precept is a separate charge. The money that it raises can only be spent on providing social care for adults. The 1% rise proposed would generate around £1.5million extra for Ealing, a small fraction of the annual cost of providing the service.
Ealing spent nearly £84million on adult social care last year and around 60p in every £1 that it spends goes towards helping adults and children.
Council tax support
Ealing’s council tax support scheme providing up to 100% discount on bills to the most vulnerable will remain in place. Around 16,500 working age Ealing residents, and 7,400 pensioners, currently receive help paying their council tax through this scheme.
Like all local authorities, Ealing Council has seen its core government grant slashed since 2009 while seeing demand for high-cost services, such as adult social care and services for children with special educational needs and disabilities, rise. The COVID-19 pandemic, and its legacy on jobs and local businesses, has placed extra pressure on already stretched council finances.
Inflation is currently at a 30-year high, meaning that it costs the council more to provide the same services, and the cost-of-living crisis is anticipated to result in more local people turning to the council in crisis.
Councillor Steve Donnelly, cabinet member for decent living incomes, said: “Ealing has been hit hard by COVID-19 and, as a borough, we are still recovering.
“We want to do everything in our power to help our communities, particularly hard-up households, who bore the brunt of the pandemic and are now on the frontline of the cost-of-living crisis. Now, more than ever, we need to make sure that our services can support and protect them as much as possible.
“When government announced their financial settlement for local councils, they made it clear that a 1.99% rise, plus their 1% social care precept, was part of the plan. With this built into government calculations, we are left with some tough choices. Unfortunately, after 10 years of government cuts, inflation at a 30-year high, and with more people needing our help, we must consider raising council tax.”
We expect more people to turn to us for help
Councillor Peter Mason, leader of Ealing Council, said: “We expect more people than ever to turn to us for help in the coming year and, when they do, we want to be in the best possible shape to support them and keep them safe, which is why we are considering this rise.
“Everyone was affected in their own way by the pandemic and lockdowns, but we know that hard-up people on zero hours contracts and Black and ethnic minority households were hit particularly hard.
“The community rightly expects us to provide support when they need it, but we have been left once again with a short-term, inadequate and unreliable funding settlement. This leaves us vulnerable to shocks and unprecedented events like COVID-19. It also makes it incredibly difficult to plan long-term, especially for high-cost, complicated services such as social care.
“We continue to stand on the side of local people, and especially with those who are most vulnerable to food and energy price rises. Our council tax support scheme is there to help those on very low incomes, as well as young care leavers and injured army veterans. We’ve also made it easier to get help to pay for food and essential bills over winter through our local welfare assistance scheme.
“If you need support , please get in touch with us. We want to help.”
If full council votes in favour on Tuesday, 1 March, the council tax increase will throw a much-needed cash lifeline to important services that local people on low incomes rely on.