Portsmouth residents could see their council tax bill soar by four per cent in bid to cover £2m living wage bill

A carer for the elderly Picture posed by models
A carer for the elderly Picture posed by models
Picture: Paul Jacobs (142476-229) PPP-140824-032155001

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TAXPAYERS in Portsmouth have been warned that the council needs to save £6m more than it first thought.

Last week the authority unveiled a wave of cuts that aimed to deal with an £11m shortfall in the budget.

Potentially, we may find ourselves in the position where if we don’t do this, we we will have to do another budget in the middle of next year and put forward another round of savings.

Councillor Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader of Portsmouth City Council

But now a report has revealed that on top of those cuts the Tory cabinet needs to decide how it will cut another £2.4m from health and social care and £2.7m from children and education – taking the total amount needing to be clawed back to £16.1m.

Two separate dossiers going to the cabinet into the reasons for spiralling costs reveal around £1.3m worth of previous projected savings had not been carried out.

Other issues include a rise in the number of vulnerable children who need looking after, a rise in the number of people needing care at home and rising costs looking after people with mental health issues.

As well as this, the council is now suggesting it increases its share of council tax by four per cent, not two per cent as planned, to pay the national living wage to care agency staff.

Critics fear the council is losing its grip on its finances.

City Lib Dem leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: ‘This is a real disgrace.

‘The council has to be able to manage its finances properly but this is not happening.

‘Cuts of an extra £6m in social services and education are being pushed through to try to sort out this mismanagement of the council’s finances and the cuts will fall on the most vulnerable groups in Portsmouth – so less support for people with disabilities, less respite for parents of children with learning disabilities and more cuts to children’s centres.’

The four per cent rise is mainly so the council can pay agencies to put care workers on an improved national living wage next year.

Without the extra increase it would face a £2m bill compensating care companies who would otherwise have to cover the higher staff wages themselves.

It comes after the government revealed it won’t be giving councils money to help ensure public sector workers get £7.20 an hour from next year – and they will have to find the money through taxes.

Deputy Tory council leader Luke Stubbs warns that if people don’t accept the tax rise, the budget would have to be cut even further.

Cllr Stubbs said: ‘Potentially, we may find ourselves in the position where if we don’t do this, we will have to do another budget in the middle of next year and put forward another round of savings. It wouldn’t be easy at all. Getting this year’s budget to balance without taking too much out of the front line was a very challenging task.’

Residents living in a band B – the most common tax bracket in the city – home would see the proportion of their bill set by the council rise from £911.19 a year to £947.63.

Levies for Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service and the police have yet to be decided.

The extra money would also help adult social care services like meals on wheels and residential care to continue.

But Portsmouth Unite convenor Richard White attacked the council for not making agencies pay up and placing the burden on taxpayers.

He said: ‘The council knows it is struggling with the budget and it’s like it is trying to find excuses to put council tax up. It should be down to the agencies to pay the care workers.

‘If any of these agencies are saying they would need to put their costs up to cover staffing costs, then the council has the option of using other agencies or using its own workers.’

HOW THE COUNCIL TAX RISE WOULD AFFECT YOU

BAND A: £781.02 per year to £812.26

BAND B: £911.19 per year to £947.63

BAND C: £1,041.36 per year to £1,083.01

BAND D: £ 1,171.53 per year to £1,218.39

BAND E: £1,431.87 per year to £1,489.10

BAND F: £ 1,692.21 per year to £ 1759.89

BAND G: £1,952.55 per year to £2,030.65

BAND H: £2,343.06 per year to £ 2,436.78