Plans to increase council tax by nearly two per cent

County Hall, Matlock.
County Hall, Matlock.

The cash–strapped council is planning a council tax increase in a bid to help claw back £157million savings over the next four years.

Derbyshire County Council is proposing to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent to help deal the shortfall in funding, which has come as a result of reductions in Government grants, inflation and greater financial demands.

Councillor Anne Western, leader of the council, said: “Increasing council tax is the last thing we want to do.

“We know residents are struggling to make ends meet and we’ve done our best to keep council tax just below the rate of inflation.

“Freezing council tax this year will only make next year more painful because we’ve got to make cuts every year for the next five years.

“We’re putting our own house in order to make savings by scrutinising spending, reviewing senior management and sell off redundant land and buildings.

“But it’s not enough to meet the £157million shortfall.”

The authority claims that of the 2,814 respondents to a public consultation held last year, 58 per cent said they would support a council tax increase of two per cent or more.

“Any increase in bills is very difficult for people, we accept that, but I think the impact of cutting services more would be more dramatic,” Cllr Western continued.

The council is awaiting Government guidance to determine whether a referendum will be needed to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent.

An increase of this amount would mean residents in band D properties paying an extra £16.71 per year.

The authority announced it needs to cut 1,600 jobs in a bid to meet its spending requirements. It has already received 733 applications under its voluntary redundancy scheme and plans to start the process of cutting its workforce by March this year.

Cllr Western said the County Offices in Matlock were ‘not immune’ from being considered for sale in the future.

Derbyshire County Council’s lowest paid staff are to benefit from a wage increase.

Around 3,000 staff will have their wages increased to £7.65 an hour from April 1 as part of the council’s Living Wage scheme.

Councillor Anne Western said: “It’s nice to have some positive news. This is morally correct and the people who will benefit are the people on the low wages.”

The authority is encouraging schools to adopt the same policy.

Council chiefs agreed to consult on plans to axe services which benefit the most vulnerable in society.

Councillor Clare Neill,cabinet member for adult social care, said one of the hardest proposals the council was putting forward was cuts of £9million to the Housing Related Support services programme, which helps vulnerable people remain independent.

Among the other money–savings proposals being considered are the introduction of a charge of £5 for transport to get to a day services and home again, a £316–a–year charge for the cost of school transport for pre–school children with special educational needs and a charge of £349–a–year for transport for sixth form age pupils with special educational needs.