UPDATE FEBRUARY 2024
At the end of January, DLUHC announced further funding for both of our councils. Both council's budget reports to their Executives tell us that each council received an additional ~£3m since they ran their calculations, yet they have no intention of reducing that hike.
Unsurprisingly, and as if by magic, Labour and Lib Dem councils always land on the maximum 4.99% increase before a referendum is required. Only Conservative councils in Cumbria have frozen Council tax in recent years.
Now we see that our councillors have no interest in protecting the pockets of residents, they just want the maximum - but they don't want to give you your say on it...
COUNCIL TAX HIKES
In April 2023, our councils clobbered hard-working taxpayers with huge council tax hikes.
Westmorland and Furness council opted for a hike of up to 5.95%, while Cumberland went further with a hike of nearly 7% - some of the largest increases in the country, deliberately targeting those areas that had previously been Conservative-controlled with councils that had taken financial decisions in the interests of residents.
What have we got to show for it? Months of unnecessary bin strikes in Allerdale and Eden; Roads that go unrepaired despite record government funding; Bus operators not being passed the support that government has given the councils; Cuts to adult and children's social care and family respite services; Councillors allowances hiked; And jobs for the boys (and girls).
They talk of government ‘cuts’, and reach for this word ‘austerity’ - but I’m not sure they know what it means. Since 2010, after allowing for inflation, Cumbrian council budgets have grown. That’s the very opposite of austerity.
20% of Cumberland’s budget comes directly from government grants, not including schools funding which also comes from government and is at its highest level ever (up 10% after inflation since 2019).
So let’s just call it what it is - mismanagement.
They're laughing at us.
And now they want to clobber us again.
Both councils have gone out to sham consultations, wanting to hike council tax by the maximum 4.99%. Amazingly, in Labour and Lib Dem controlled councils, there's never a figure under the maximum amount that enables them set a balanced budget - yet Conservative controlled councils seem to manage it 🤔
When the submissions were made by the councils for local government reorganisation, they all showed savings. The successful bid showed savings of 7-11% - figures which dwarf these council tax increases. But the councils have done nothing to realise these savings. Council buildings sit half-empty at best, ringfenced government funding goes unspent.
Because of the failure to realise those savings, both councils have already gone cap in hand to government for exceptional financial support - the ability to borrow money, or spend reserves, on day-to-day spending. A practice that is usually not allowed. In Cumberland, the council are already on the verge of bankruptcy because of a failure to use wisely their 11 months as a Shadow Authority, planning efficient staffing and building use to make those savings.
Already they're planning another 5% tax raid in April, and we need to send them a message.
In Cumberland, that's an additional £86.35 for a Band D property, and in Westmorland and Furness it's £86.87 - while those in the lowest Band A properties will have to find nearly an additional £60.
They have their priorities all wrong - in December 2022, those at the top table in Westmorland and Furness gave themselves a 100% rise in their additional allowances, backdated for 7 months. Cumberland did the same for all councillors in October 2022, followed by another huge hike recently. Westmorland also agreed to hire 3 'political assistants' at a cost of £175,000 per year.
The councils need to CUT THE WASTE, realise the SAVINGS that were promised and STOP THE HIKE in our council tax.
If you complete the form below, I'll write to the council on your behalf setting out your opposition to the hike.