The council want to know what residents think about council tax and council spending as part of a borough-wide consultation which launches on Friday 9 September.
Merton Council has frozen your council tax since 2010, and it is the council’s agreed policy to have low council tax.
However, council services are coming under increasing financial pressure, and we want to know what residents’ priorities for the future are.
Why are we consulting residents?
- The funding we receive from the government to provide local services has been cut significantly – it used to be around half our total assessed income – while demand for services like care for older or disabled people has increased.
- The local NHS, which provides millions of pounds to Merton Council to provide services, have told us they will not be able to sustain the funding they give us unless we raise council tax.
- The Government have given councils the option to increase council tax by 2% a year, so long as the money is ring-fenced for adult social care, to ensure cuts to that service are not as big as they will be otherwise.
- The Government have also given councils the power to raise council tax by a further 1.99% a year. They have assumed we will increase council tax by at least 1.75%
- On top of the savings we’ve been forced to agree to make so far, we have to find a further £20million of savings over the next four years.
- In 2011, the council decided to ensure that adult social care and children’s services received less of a share of cuts than other areas, and after 5 years of this approach we want to find out if these are still residents’ priorities.
Although we would still need to make cuts, increasing your council tax by 2% could reduce the estimated £20million of cuts to around £18million, for example. We are also looking at other ways to reduce the gap – for instance, we have also raised charges for some services where we can, and will continue to use reserves where available to slow down some of the impact of the cuts.
We want to know what residents think. Would residents be willing to pay extra council tax in 2017/2018 and 2018/2019? If so, how much extra? Would people prefer any additional council tax to help reduce the cuts to just one council service (adult social care) or all areas?
Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Mark Allison said: “Residents know we want to keep council tax low, and because we have taken a business-like approach we are one of only a few councils in the country to have frozen it every year. In Merton we have tightened our belts and reduced our spending in all service areas to reflect the severe cuts in government funding councils like ours have experienced. However, we need to save a further £20m in the next four years, with more cuts to come. So, as it is five years since we agreed our priorities, we want to find out residents’ views on these difficult decisions and how we keep Merton a great place for our families to live in.”
From Friday 9 September you can fill out the consultation online at www.merton.gov.uk/consultation or fill out a paper version in the autumn edition of My Merton magazine, which will be delivered to your home from Friday and is available from the borough’s libraries. From Friday 9 September, view the e-edition at www.merton.gov.uk/mymerton.
The deadline for responses is Friday 4 November.