Renfrewshire households protected from cuts as Councillors vote to freeze council taxes and rents for coming year
Households in Renfrewshire have been protected from significant budget cuts as Councillors voted to freeze Council Tax, council rents and adult social care charges for the coming year.
Renfrewshire Council’s budget for 2017-18 was set at a Council meeting yesterday (Thurs 16 Feb) and will provide a budget of £386 million for existing public services.
The budget takes account of a £16 million reduction in annual spending to address a budget shortfall which must be met in the coming year. This shortfall has been managed by savings delivered through the Council’s effective debt management and its Better Council change programme which improves efficiencies across the council, meaning that the budget shortfall will not hit front line services or the pockets of people in Renfrewshire.
The Council budget also sees the following investment:
The largest single investment for maintenance of our roads network with £6.7million for key routes to keep Renfrewshire’s economy moving freeing up extra resource for residential roads.
An additional £1.5million for Council initiatives to tackle poverty such as providing money and energy advice, literacy programmes, breakfast clubs, supporting families with the cost of the school day and supporting digital participation across the region.
An extra £1.5million funding will be used for a refurbishment of St Anthony’s primary and a new Spateston nursery in Johnstone.
An extra £150,000 funding to remove music tuition fees for every child in Renfrewshire schools and a doubling of the Cultural Heritage and Events Fund with an extra £500,000 to benefit dozens of community arts groups across the region.
An extra £1million for investment in community facilities as well as £20,000 for each of the region’s Local Area Committees to expand the grants available to their local communities.
All fees and charges, including those for adult social care and Council-owned leisure facilities, will also be frozen for the coming year, including fitness class fees and hire of football pitch facilities.
Leader of the Council, Councillor Mark Macmillan, welcomed the budget and said the measures agreed would help protect Renfrewshire residents from some of the severe cuts faced by public services.
Councillor Macmillan said:
“We are ambitious for Renfrewshire and what it can achieve and I am pleased we have been able to protect the pockets of people who live and work in the area despite the ongoing cuts and increasing pressures on our budget.
“Through our effective management of the public purse, we have listened to what matters to our communities and continued to freeze the Council Tax at current rates as well as freeze council rents, charges for adult social care and charges for our leisure facilities across the region.
“We are a region of great prosperity but also significant inequality and we want to ensure that everyone has the same opportunities through education and employment to grow a Renfrewshire that is an attractive place to visit, work and invest in.
“Our communities have a history of great talent and by tapping into that talent and investing in it through the removal of music tuition fees and through funding for our talented communities, we can open up access to opportunities that can change the lives of those who take part in such activities. Our Paisley bid for UK City of Culture 2021 is part of our ambition to tap into and develop that talent to ensure future generations of success.”
Scottish Government changes to legislation mean council tax bands for properties in Bands E to H will increase from April this year. Councillors yesterday (Thurs) voted not to further increase Council tax for local residents ensuring that cost pressures caused by increased demand for adult social care and other pay and inflation pressures will be met within the budget available to the Council.
Council Leader Mark Macmillan added:
“We have been determined not to pass the cost pressures we face on to households in Renfrewshire while so many people are having to tighten their own budgets and in the worst cases, are struggling to provide the basics for their families.
“We have listened to what our communities have told us and invested in initiatives that will make a real difference to people’s pockets. We want to invest in a long term future for people in the area, through jobs and education opportunities and I urge Scottish Government to end this uncertainty for local services and provide a long term financial vision for the delivery of the vital public services so many people rely on.”
Rent freeze boost for Renfrewshire Council tenants
Renfrewshire Council is to help its tenants by freezing rents for the next year.
The council owns around 12,000 homes in Renfrewshire and all its tenants will see their rent remain at the current level in 2017/18.
Councillors approved the measure as part of the budget in a meeting today (Thursday 16 February).
It follows a recent consultation with council tenants, which saw more than 600 share their views through a telephone survey in December and January.
More than half thought rents should remain at current levels or increase below the rate of inflation.
Almost three-quarters thought that ‘affordability for tenants’ was the most important thing for the council to take into account when setting a rent increase.
Renfrewshire Council Leader Mark Macmillan said: “Affordability is clearly an issue of concern to most tenants.
“Freezing rents for the next year will give a welcome boost to households across the area and I’m glad the council is in a position to give them this help.
“The UK Government’s welfare reforms are causing severe financial difficulty for families so this council is absolutely determined to do whatever we can to help people get by.
“We set aside £5 million for measures to alleviate the impact of the chancellor’s unfair reforms over the period 2013/14 to 2017/18.
“This included having extra staff to help tenants who are struggling because of the reforms and this support will continue over the next year.”
A report to the council explained the key assumptions underpinning 2017/18 budget proposals.
Improved letting times, the expected pace of roll out of Universal Credit in Renfrewshire, and management of historic debt are among the factors enabling no rent increase in 2017/18.
While council tenants raked ‘affordability’ as the most important factor in setting the rent increase, tenants also highlighted the importance of improvements to existing housing and building new council homes.
The budget passed by councillors includes plans to spend £65 million over the next three years (2017/18 to 2019/20).
This includes £36.9 million for planned investment programmes such as new roofs and external fabric improvements, internal improvements, and improvements to multi-storey flats and sheltered housing.
It also makes provision for more than 300 new build council homes, including around 100 new homes at Bishopton and around 100 in Johnstone Castle, as well as capital investment to support local housing regeneration initiatives.
Council Leader Macmillan said: “Renfrewhsire Council is committed to providing high-quality homes that people can afford to rent and buy.
“We want to create homes that people want to live in – and ensure our communities are places where they want to stay.”