Difficult decisions as budget is set for 2021/22

Published Tuesday 23 February 2021 at 10:40

Council Tax in Blackburn and Darwen is set to rise but Blackburn with Darwen Council has announced new investment in waste services.

The proposed council tax increase of 3.99% is a weekly increase of 80p for a Band A Council Tax payer and £1.20 for a Band D property.

The Council has resisted increasing the levy by the maximum 5% as seen elsewhere in Lancashire and across the country. In November 2020, the Government suggested that core spending power for councils in England would increase by an estimated 4.5% in cash-terms, they are in fact assuming that councils in England will increase council tax by the 5% and passport the costs onto local council tax payers.

The proposals are due to be debated and decided at a meeting of the Finance Council on Monday, March 1.

As it strives to provide value for money, the Council has also unveiled plans to invest in new waste collection services with demand on the teams increasing during the pandemic.

This includes:

  • Investment in a new collection team to remove waste from adopted back streets within the borough on a regular cycle.
  • Employment of an additional enforcement officer to tackle fly-tipped and inappropriately managed waste in primarily back streets locations across the borough.
  • Cost of a replacement burgundy bin to be reduced as part of a 6-month trial, from £20 to £10.

Councillor Vicky McGurk, Executive Member for Finance, said:

The pandemic has devastated us all and everyone has suffered over the course of the last year. We would never choose to raise council tax unnecessarily during these tough times but every year the Council has a legal obligation to agree a balanced budget.

What we are proposing does not introduce new cuts and balances the books despite the increased financial challenges caused by the pandemic and the increasing demand on services like disposal of waste, adults and children’s care.

In announcing the new investment for waste services we are responding to residents’ very valid concerns around the rise in the amount of waste and fly-tipping within the borough during the pandemic. From our own data we have seen a 15% increase in general waste being placed out for collection as well as new litter from Covid waste, such as discarded face masks.

After years of austerity and budget cuts we have a funding gap that the pandemic has only exacerbated and now the government are asking residents to pay more.  With the little choices we can make, we are asking the Finance Council to consider and agree a lower tax rise than the assumption made by Government. In doing so we have tried to keep it as low as possible and have resisted increasing the levy by the maximum 5% seen elsewhere with over half of councils proposing putting up their bills by that amount.

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council, said:

The Government will soon be looking at how we recover from the impacts of the pandemic. Central to that must be properly remunerating councils who have led the response. The Government has an opportunity to set out a long-term plan for investing in local communities and a fairer and sustainable funding model for local government to continually deliver for our residents. We need radical solutions at a national level to really transform the fortunes of towns like ours. It must come good on its levelling up agenda and invest properly in the north.

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