Council tax to rise by 2.5 per cent in Milton Keynes as council reveals its 'care not cuts' annual budget
MK Council has today revealed its annual budget plan for 2021, including the lowest council tax rise in five years.
The Labour-run council says its ethos is “care not cuts” and is dipping into its reserve fund to avoid major cuts to services.
There is a £15m funding shortfall over the next year due to government cuts, but Labour leader Pete Marland insists services will not be affected.
Instead It will use the council reserves to balance the budget until the money it takes in from council tax, business rates and parking income recovers..
Extra funding is being found to invest in supporting people, with welfare and job support schemes to be announced over the next few weeks, as well extra funding to tackle climate change, crime, graffiti and potholes.
The proposed 2.5 per cent council tax increase is, the lowest rise in five years. Council tax for a Band D property in Milton Keynes is lowest in the South Midlands area.
"The government have said they expect councils to increase council tax by 5% this year however, Milton Keynes is expected to have one of the lowest council tax increases in the country," said Pete.
Spending will be cut by over £9m, with the biggest saving being a reduction of over £1m to replace bus subsidies with demand responsive transport, already agreed by Cabinet in November this year.
However, most services will remain untouched, said Pete.
"By using reserves the council have been able to reject the option of cuts to libraries, day care services and funding to charities and cultural organisations," he said.
Pete said: “Labour-led Milton Keynes Council are putting forward a budget that protects and invests in our services, in our local economy and helps the most vulnerable. It is a caring over cutting budget.”
He added: “I am not ashamed to say that we are using reserves to balance the books to stop horrific cuts to services. Covid-19 and a decade of cuts by the Conservatives have left us with a £15m hole in the budget next year.
"We were already at breaking point before the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite promises they made to 'do whatever it takes', the government has let the people of Milton Keynes down. Yes, they have provided some cash, but even after all that is taken into account, we have a £15m gap.
"We have spent years properly and prudently managing our budget and defending our stance to protect reserves for a rainy day. Now the time has come to use those emergency reserves during a crisis rather than cut vital service
“MK Labour will not balance the budget on the backs of the poor or hardworking people this year. The government want us to put up council tax by 5 per cent. We won’t. They want us to cut services to break even. We won’t. We are taking a very prudent but calculated view that our income will recover over time, rather than destroy our services. Over the next few weeks we will also be announcing further measures to help families financially, support our economy and tackle climate change.”
The budget proposals are published today, and a consultation will run until early February.