Portsmouth council tax bills could shoot up by nearly five per cent to fund social care

The need for extra money for adult social care means council tax in Portsmouth is likely to rise by 4.99 per cent
The need for extra money for adult social care means council tax in Portsmouth is likely to rise by 4.99 per cent
Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

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TAXPAYERS in Portsmouth could be landed with larger council tax bills this year to help plug money problems in the city’s adult social care service.

Senior members of the authority are days away from considering whether residents should be charged an increase of 4.99 per cent – three per cent to go on supporting the vulnerable and elderly.

This does mean there will be some people in the city who would have a council tax increase of about £52 year and that’s a serious amount of money for a lot of families in the city. That’s potentially 100 meals for some people.

Lib Dem councillor Ben Dowling

That’s equivalent to an extra 91p a week for people who live in a band B property in the city.

The council initially wanted to raise its share of the total bill by 3.99 per cent – with two per cent funding social care – but the government has given authorities freedom to charge more.

In a presentation on the council’s cash affairs to a scrutiny panel, finance director Chris Ward warned the council would have to save an extra £674,000 if it chose to trim back one per cent of the social care contribution.

The full council tax bill for city residents could rise by an average of 4.65 per cent when taking into account an expected 3.12 per cent increase for the police and crime commissioner’s share and a 1.98 per cent hike for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Lib Dem councillor Ben Dowling is concerned. He said: ‘The council is in a very difficult financial position.

‘This does mean there will be some people in the city who would have a council tax increase of about £52 a year and that’s a serious amount of money for a lot of families in the city. That’s potentially 100 meals for some people.’

‘We need to think about what our priorities are in the budget. We, as a council, are putting aside significant money for capital projects, and for some of these projects, it’s unknown whether they can be carried out.’

The concerns came after Mr Ward said £3.5m from the council’s revenue fund – money used for services – was being put into a capital pot to help get a new road scheme for the city centre off the ground and fund more school places.

But Tory scrutiny panel chairman Cllr Scott Harris called Cllr Dowling’s comments ‘shortsighted’.

He said: ‘If we don’t put money back for capital projects, we won’t hit our numbers for our statutory needs.’

It was said the council would be £12m worse off by 2021, with ‘adult social care pressures’ amounting to £4.4m.

The council could make an extra £5m in council tax by 2021 should it agree to another 4.99 per cent increase in 2018/2019 and an annual 1.99 per cent rise after. The cabinet will debate the tax rate and this year’s budgets on Thursday before the full council makes a decision.