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Rutland County Council is likely to draw on £2.6m from its reserves to keep the council tax increase as low as possible

Councillors hope to avoid putting up tax by the highest rate to help residents with financial struggles.

Rutland County Council has drafted a £42.4m budget for the next year which relies on residents paying 2.99 per cent more.

It also requires the council to use £2.6m from its reserves fund.

Rutland County Council
Rutland County Council

The decision goes against advice from finance director Sav Della Rocca who urged the council to “live within its means” and stop dipping into the reserve budget for everyday spending.

He recommended a council increase tax of five per cent - the highest amount allowed.

Mr Della Rocca said: “The proposed budget needs £2.6m from reserves, but they are not there to be used for funding everyday expenditure.

“We need to take action to minimise the use of reserves and the only way we can do that is to stop spending.

“We must live within our means and prioritise services.”

During a debate Coun Gordon Brown (Con), the portfolio holder for finance, admitted the budget is not based on “absolute finance”.

He said: “Many of our residents are in difficult circumstances and the recommendation of a 2.99 per cent increase is based on that.”

Councillor Gordon Brown
Councillor Gordon Brown

Rutland’s share of government funding has dropped by 35 per cent since 2013/14 and the council receives £120 less per head compared with similar authorities.

Leaders are working with Rutland MP Alicia Kearns to address the issue, but for now it means 81 per cent of the budget comes from council tax.

Coun Brown added: “Government talk of increased spending power does not mean more money for councils. It simply means councils have been given the ability to increase council tax even further, to make up for a lack of central government funding.

“This effectively passes the rising cost of local services on to residents. We feel this unfair on people in Rutland, particularly when the council tax is already high here because of the government’s historic approach to funding local councils.”

MP Alicia Kearns has been asked to lobby the government for fairer funding.
MP Alicia Kearns has been asked to lobby the government for fairer funding.

Last year the council took £10,000 from its reserves to balance the budget.

It currently sets aside up to £2m per year in its reserve account for unexpected expenditure, but Mr Della Rocca believes this should be increased to £3m as no one knows what ongoing impact the pandemic will have on the council’s finances.

Key spending areas for the 2021/22 budget are:

  • £13.8m for adult social care
  • £6.3m for social care
  • £3.2m for waste collection
  • £1.4m for roads, car parks, footpaths and street lighting
  • £1.09m for public transport
  • £2.05m for free school transport
  • £1.8m for public protection and the environment

A consultation with all taxpayers in the county will run until January 29.

Details can be found at www.rutland.gov.uk/budget

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