Council budget to support residents with the cost of living

The majority of residents in Merton are set to receive a 1% discount on their council tax bills this year, as the authority seeks to offset the impact of the cost-of-living emergency.

Papers published today show that the Government has increased the amount by which councils in England can put up council tax and expects them to do so. The funding that the Government is giving Merton for 2023/24 assumes that the council will increase council tax by 3% from April, with an additional 2% for the adult social care precept.

However, the council has announced today that it intends to give all residents living in Band A-D homes a 1% discount on their council tax bills to help support them through the cost of living emergency.  

At its meeting on Monday (16 January) the Cabinet will be asked to agree the proposals as part of the latest budget projections for the 2023/24 financial year, following the announcement of the Local Government Finance Settlement on 19 December. The final council budget will be agreed by full Council on 1 March. 

In November, the council agreed to provide a council tax rebate of £60 for 10,000 residents who receive council tax support. This totals £654,000 and will be paid for from the council’s £2million Cost of Living Fund.

Merton’s council tax support scheme is one of the most generous in the UK and in 2023/24, the council will be spending more than more than £10.6million.

Council Leader Councillor Ross Garrod said: “Merton was one of the first councils to declare a cost of cost of living emergency, and we will continue to do everything we can to support residents who are counting the cost of rising prices.

“Our proposed one off 1% discount on council tax bills will benefit the majority of residents in the borough and those facing the toughest impacts. This is in addition to our £60 rebate for residents who receive tax support, and many more who have been helped through our £2million Cost of Living Fund.”

More than half of the Cost of Living Fund has already been allocated to projects, including providing food for pupils who receive free school meals during the holidays; two years funding for a debt support service run by Merton Citizens Advice Bureau in libraries across the borough from today; energy efficiency measures for homes which are putting money back into residents pockets, and funding partner organisations to support residents who have been hit hardest by the cost of living emergency.  

The council’s Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, Councillor Billy Christie, added: “Like many residents, we are under unprecedented pressure to balance our budget, and all our services face soaring energy costs, rising bills and high inflation.

“This is on top of a significant loss of income of both fees and charges since the pandemic, as well as yet another real terms cut in Government funding.

“As a result of a lot of hard work, we’ve managed to balance our budget, maintain or improve key council services, and fund the council tax discount as part of our commitment to helping those hardest hit by the current cost of living emergency.”