By Peter Makossah
Amid concerns of high cost of living, Nottingham City Council has hiked council tax fees, meaning the already struggling residents will have to dig deeper into their pockets to fish out an extra £65 a year.
At the authority’s full council meeting on March 6, the next financial year’s budget was approved – including a 4.99 per cent council tax rise.
According to the council’s meeting agreement, for people living in Band A properties – the majority of residents in the city – it will mean a rise of £65.04 to £1,368.59 every year.
Furthermore, for those in Band B bills paid to fund the city council will go high by £75.89 to £1,596.69.
However, many a residents feel this is a bitter pill to swallow for hundreds of families who are already struggling financially due to the high cost of living not only in Nottingham but across the United Kingdom.
Rumbidzai Malaidza, 46, of Rivergreen Road, in Clifton, Nottingham, said: “Most people are struggling with finances due to unfavourable economic conditions coupled with the ongoing high cost-of-living.
“The City Council should’ve considered us by not rising the council tax fees because we are all struggling financially as everything is going up save for salaries and the money people earn. This is not fair.”
24-year-old Megan Horrocks of Highbury Vale, Bulwell in Nottingham said: “I think they are only interested in making money off the city residents without considering where we will get that money from.
“I think they should have looked at some ways to find money to cushion the money needed from council tax to relieve the city dwellers and give them a breathing space.”
The council said last year it needed to bridge a £32m gap for 2023/24.
Leader of the Labour authority Cllr David Mellen said it will “not be an easy budget to see through”.
Cllr Adele Williams (Lab), the council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance, said: “This has been a difficult budget but we have worked very hard with officers to protect what Nottingham needs and values.”
Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner and the Nottinghamshire Fire Authority have also increased their council tax which is paid by city and county residents.
In order to balance its books, the council proposed the axing of 110 full-time equivalent job posts and an end to the collecting of household bins, which have been put out on the wrong days.
The wheelchair hire service at the Victoria Centre is also being scrapped and two floors of Loxley House will be mothballed.
The council also has a Medium-Term Financial Plan (MFTP) which sets out a path to build reserves due to the little wiggle room in its reserves and balance as a result of the cuts.
The council is being monitored by a Government appointment improvement board after a raft of problems including the loss of around £38m through the collapse of Robin Hood Energy.
The Conservative group put forward a budget amendment which was supported by the Independents.
The amendment suggested a number of reviews were carried out by the council including relocating from Loxley House, the impact of Purpose Built Student Accommodation on the city and “an assessment of the economic impact on the city in the event the tram operator fails”.
The ruling Labour Party voted against the amendment. Deputy leader Councillor Adele Williams said it read like a “half-baked manifesto”.
Cllr Williams added: “Thanks to the Tory administration [Government], Nottingham gets £100m less in annual revenue support grants than we did at the start of Tory austerity.
“That’s the equivalent of £945 in real terms per household in our city since 2011. If this chamber is representative of Nottingham, only a handful would pay higher council tax rates.
The vast majority of us would be charged at band A or B. Council tax is unfair, it is a Tory tax, which needs reform. It is being used as a means to make local people pay for the mistakes and failures of the Conservative government.
“Conservatives drain money from our city, Labour fight for what Nottingham needs and The Independents provide political cover for the Tories.”
Cllr Mellen added: “Thank you to Adele who has led this extremely challenging budget process for the first time, to present a budget today that is balanced for four years.
“We’ve heard today about the scrutiny our council faces.
“We know the disastrous consequences our council would face if we were unable to balance our books today.”
The budget was approved by a majority, with the four votes against coming from Conservative and Independent councillors.
“Council tax is unfair, it is a Tory tax, which needs reform. It is being used as a means to make local people pay for the mistakes and failures of the Conservative government.”Councillor Adele Williams