Council tax bills in Croydon are expected to rise by 1.2% to help protect services that matter most to local residents. This follows a two-year freeze in bills.
The budget announcement comes as Croydon contends with a third consecutive year of cuts in government funding, which has taken £30m away from the borough. It has also seen an increase in demand on its services.
The leader of the council is now calling on the government to address funding inequalities, which have seen Croydon receive millions less in grants than neighbouring boroughs, and hand over the resources it needs to be able to protect public services and cut council tax.
Croydon is determined to safeguard the services that residents have said are a priority; these include education and improving schools, support for special needs education in the borough, protecting the vulnerable, improving roads and parks, leisure facilities, building affordable homes and reducing crime.
And it is proposing a below-inflation increase in council tax, equivalent to 34p a week for Band D properties, to ensure that it can avoid cutting these services and continue to invest in the borough.
Tough choices have had to be made in some areas and there have been some increases in fees and charges.
But the council has listened to residents, and over the next four years more will also be investing in key areas, including:
£92m for primary school improvements
£49m for secondary school improvements
£27m extra to improve the borough’s roads
£3.7m Parks to be Proud Of scheme for Wandle Park
£24m in special educational needs in Croydon
£17m on the Connected Croydon public realm improvements
£26m on Fairfield Halls refurbishment
Croydon’s track record in efficiency has meant the impact on the borough has been far less severe than in other areas. More than £60m has already been saved in the past three years through cutting management and back-office costs, sharing services and increasing commissioning.
The council plans to make further efficiency savings of at least 20% over the next four years to help protect the borough against future cuts.
Councillor Mike Fisher, leader of the council, said: “We have had to make some tough decisions in the past few years, but through careful financial management we have been able to cut costs and keep the impact on Croydon residents to a minimum. However, as the government reductions continue to bite we need make this modest increase in council tax in order to protect the frontline services that are important to local people, and to invest in the future of our borough. Residents understand that this is the right thing to do.
“Of course, we wouldn’t have to make this decision if we received the same amount of grant per head as some of our neighbouring local authorities who have less need than Croydon. If we had neighbouring Lambeth's government allocation we would have millions extra to invest and we would be able to cut council tax by more than 90%. Croydon's diversity and deprivation levels are now greater than Lambeth's yet the archaic formula which divides up resources doesn't recognise this and needs to be changed urgently.”
Councillors will meet on 26 February to approve the budget and council tax for 2013/14.
Croydon is recommending a 1.85% increase in its council tax element. This, coupled with the Mayor of London’s proposed 1.2% reduction in the GLA precept, gives an overall 1.2% rise.
Proposed council tax bands for 2013 and 2014
Band A £982.93 An increase of £11.40 per year or 23p per week
Band B £1,146.75 An increase of £13.66 per year or 26p per week
Band C £1,310.55 An increase of £15.60 per year or 30p per week
Band D £1,474.39 An increase of £17.56 per year or 34p per week
Band E £1,802.02 An increase of £21.45 per year or 41p per week
Band F £2,129.67 An increase of £25.36 per year or 49p per week
Band G £2,457.31 An increase of £29.25 per year or 56p per week
Band H £2,948.78 An increase of £35.11 per year or 68p per week