'No alternative': Wakefield Council leader defends 3.99 per cent rise in council tax bills

Wakefield Council's leader has defended a proposed hike in council tax for local residents, insisting the authority had "no alternative".

Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th February 2020, 4:17 pm

Households are set to see a rise of just under four per cent in their bills from April.

More government cash for councils means there will be no cuts to frontline services in the Wakefield district this year, for the first time in a decade.

But Councillor Denise Jeffery, who took charge of the Labour-run authority in December, said the rise was necessary to balance the books, but remains confident the public understands why.

The rise is set to kick in for households in April.

She said: "The government gives you permission to raise tax to fund social care. Well I wish they'd give us more money for social care, then we wouldn't have to put the council tax up.

"I’ve had emails from people saying they don’t mind paying the extra money because they're worried about social care. People are living longer in this district and they worry about who will look after them when they’re older.

"We could have taken the money out of reserves but we would have been criticised for that as well, and who knows when we might need that money?

"We still have one of lowest levels of council tax in West Yorkshire. I don't think we really did had any alternative."

Coun Jeffery has unveiled her first budget, having taken charge of the authority in December.

The council's proposed budget will go before all 62 of the area's elected members later this month and is expected to be approved.

It includes a £400m infrastructure programme to help maintain roads, schools and progress plans to become carbon neutral.

A new agenda to tackle poverty will be funded by extra council tax taken from the thousands of newbuilds in the district.

The council's deputy leader, Councillor Jack Hemingway, said that government claims austerity is over are incorrect.

He added: "I don't think there was any alternative (but to raise council tax).

"When government cuts your budget by that sheer amount there’s no option. There has been a direct strategy to shift burden for social care onto cash-strapped local authorities."

Local Democracy Reporting Service