Council tax frequently asked questions
Why is the council's band D council tax above the national average?
Firstly it must be stressed that inter-authority comparisons are largely ineffective because each authority has different needs, varying levels of government support, different types of property and varying levels of ability to raise tax locally via council tax and business rates, all of which distort comparisons.
National figures for 2015 to 2016 are not yet available but the 2014 to 2015 figures reveal that the headline band D council tax charge for Salford's residents is 113th highest of the 326 authorities in England. However, band D is merely a reference point to determine the tax for all other bands. The majority of properties in Salford are within the lower valuation bands and a more meaningful comparison would be based on the average council tax per dwelling for the area. Using this basis the charge to Salford's residents is 303rd highest or in the lowest 7% of all the authorities in England. This represents a position which has consistently improved each year from 2008 to 2009.
The council is committed to keep council tax rises to a minimum and this is supported by the fact that the 2015 to 2016 council tax has been frozen for the sixth year and is at the same level as in 2009 to 2010. This is despite the council having to make an unprecedented level of savings over the same period.
Why does the council have to find a significant level of savings each year and in some cases cut back on services?
The council is heavily reliant on government funding as almost 65% of the amount the council spends in its revenue budget is funded from this source. Within this is our core government funding which is the amount of grant we receive from the government to support our net revenue budget. Since 2010, the government has introduced its austerity measures designed to reduce the annual national budget deficit. These measures have included significant annual reductions in local government funding. The council estimates that after taking account of the impacts of inflation we have lost over 40% of our core government funding in the period from 2010 to 2016.
Each year the council estimates the amount of funding it will have to cover its estimated costs. These costs include annual inflationary increases and cost pressures resulting from an increase in demand on our services, in particular our children's and care related services. In summary this means that our expenditure requirement increases from the previous year's base estimate whilst our core government funding reduces and this results in a significant funding gap each year. In order to bridge this gap the council must find budget reductions, savings and increases in its local resources such as business rates. This has been an annual process since 2010 and each year it becomes more difficult.
In identifying and considering savings, the council has tried to protect front line services and the most vulnerable people in the city as far as possible. Initially the council identified and implemented efficiencies designed to minimise the impact of the cuts on our services. We have developed new ways of delivering services and worked with our partner organisations to avoid duplication and to provide integrated services. However, the level of savings required has meant that cuts in some services has been unavoidable. Unfortunately the recently published figures relating to the level of the national budget deficit suggests that these austerity measure will continue until at least 2019.
We have listened to the views of the public via our successful Talk Budget conversation introduced in 2015 and this has informed our process and we have adjusted some of our proposals accordingly.
On a more positive note the council has included growth as a key priority in the City Plan, of which regeneration is at the heart of the council's priorities and a major driver for delivering the council's economic growth agenda. This strategy has delivered some significant developments in the city including working with a number of partners to deliver major housing change across the city, notably in Pendleton, Ordsall, Lower and Higher Broughton, Seedley and Langworthy, Charlestown / Kersal and City West in the west of the city. Other parts of the city such as The Quays - MediaCityUK, Salford Central - New Bailey, Chapel Street, Greengate and Barton, are the focus for economic growth and job creation in the city.
Why is there no rebate for people on pensions?
Currently there are only a very small number of local authorities that apply a pensioner council tax rebate scheme. Many local authorities have considered the possibility of adopting such a scheme and legal advice has been sought on its eligibility. A leading Queen's Counsel warned that although a pensioner rebate scheme would be within the law, there would be a risk of legal challenge from other groups seeking a discount. Generally local authorities have reluctantly decided not to take further the plans to introduce the scheme.
It should also be stressed that many pensioners and pensioner organisations have said that although they do need financial help, this should come from the government and not from other local residents, who would face an increased council tax to enable pensioners to receive special help. The council will continue to monitor the position and consider the implications should a scheme be considered feasible.
One area that the council has protected pensioners in is the recently introduced council tax reduction scheme which effectively replaced council tax benefits. Since April 2013, everyone of working age has been expected to pay something towards their council tax bill. In Salford, from April 2015, this will mean at least 15% of the bill. Pensioners will still be able to get up to 100% of their bill paid depending on their personal circumstances.
Why should I pay extra for non-collection from others?
By legislation, the council is required to calculate and collect the level of council tax sufficient to cover its budget needs after allowing for government contributions.
The net amount required is then divided by the council tax base, which is basically the number of chargeable dwellings in the city. The tax base is calculated in accordance with government regulations and it includes an allowance for non-collection.
Whilst it is the intention of the council to keep the level of non-payment to a minimum possible by the efficient use of collection procedures, it is not possible for this or for that matter any large organisation to collect 100% of its charges.
Regrettably the amount most of us pay for national taxation, gas, electricity, mortgage, rent and virtually all goods and services has to include an undisclosed amount in respect of the non-payment by others.
The council does not knowingly accept non-payment from any of its council tax payers. Rigorous collection procedures are in place including the use of court proceedings, enforcement agents, attachment to earnings and ultimately a custodial sentence. The collection of outstanding amounts will be subject to these measures.
Why should I pay for services I don't use?
Council tax is a form of taxation and is designed to contribute towards the overall running costs of the local authority. It is not directly related to the delivery of specific services. This is important as the council provides a wide range of services to the people of Salford. Some of these may never be used directly by individual residents but nonetheless they are important to the overall well being of the city. The extent to which residents benefit can depend on their circumstances, eg age, health, finances.
It should be noted that it is the net cost of services that is covered by the council tax and this is after taking into account of income received from users of specific services, eg leisure centres, planning applications, etc. Council tax is a tax and not a charge for services. The method of setting the tax is governed by legislation to ensure that each council tax payer is contributing to the cost of all services.
Where can I obtain further information about the council's finances?
If you have any further questions about the revenue budget, or the council's finances in general, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 793 3245.
This page was last updated on 2 March 2015