WOULD you pay more council tax to limit the impact of funding cuts on our services?
This is the question Sefton Council is asking residents as it attempts to find £50m of savings in the next two years.
The cash-strapped authority is canvassing public opinion over raising tax to save services.
Street cleansing, the Botanic Gardens Museum and amateur sports funding have all fallen victim to £64m of cuts so far.
Street lighting and several of our libraries could be next as the council attempts to find further savings. In a bid to reduce the impact on key services the Town Hall is considering raising council tax. And through a consultation, which closes at the end of the month, the council is asking whether people would pay more to save services.
Council leader Peter Dowd said: “We are now at the point where there are very few efficiencies to be found and the only way to meet these targets is to identify more service cuts. If residents were prepared to pay a little extra council tax, some of these cuts could be avoided.
“We are listening to the responses to our wider consultation and will continue to listen. But it is clear from a lot of the public reaction that many of these service reductions are not acceptable for residents or businesses. The consultation should give us some idea if people are willing to pay maybe £1.50 more per week in order to give us the money to ensure some services continue. If people say ‘yes’ then this is something we could consider, providing government rules allow us to do it.”
Lib Dem leader Cllr Iain Brodie-Browne questioned the integrity of the consultation: “It’s clear that Cllr Dowd and the Labour Party want Sefton to have a council tax rise of six per cent... local residents are under enough financial pressure already without slapping an extra six per cent on the council tax bill.”
Council tax has been frozen for the past two years and last year a new law stipulated councils could not raise the tax by more than two per cent without holding a referendum.
Cllr Sir Ron Watson has submitted a motion for Thursday’s (January 24) council meeting backing this, but also arguing only council tax payers should be allowed to vote should such a referendum occur.
He said: “I support the use of a referendum in respect of council tax increases but I believe that those voting should only be people who actually pay the council tax.
“I do not believe it is fair that those who do not pay should be able to vote for increases and they make no contribution themselves. This would need to be supported nationally, particularly by the Local Government Association, but I think there is a principal of fairness which should be established.”
The consultation includes phone and online surveys. See: www.sefton.gov.uk