A great Deal in Wigan for council tax bills
Wigan Council has announced plans to freeze general council tax for the fifth year running as it thanks its residents for embracing The Deal.
It has also revealed that no further efficiencies to frontline services will need to be made for the council to reach its total saving of £160m by 2020.
Prudent financial planning and bold reforms have helped the council to be ahead of their savings target despite being one of the worst hit local authorities in the country for budget reductions after austerity measures hit in 2010.
While many councils across the country announce plans to increase council tax by the maximum amount, Wigan has pledged once again to freeze general council tax as part of The Deal and will not be adding any extra increases apart from the 3 per cent precept to fund adult social care services.
Through The Deal – it’s informal contract with residents - the council has so far saved £133m through efficiency measures, reforming services and reducing demand.
The plans are set to go before the council’s cabinet on Thursday and then full council in March.
If passed it will mean Wigan will likely have the lowest council tax increase in Greater Manchester.
The council is also in the unique position to be one of the few authorities to have balanced its adult social care budget this year which means no further cuts to frontline social care services will need to be made.
A £1.5m investment will be made into social care next year along with the money raised through the precept.
And the authority already has plans in place to save the remaining £27.5m by 2020.
By focusing on early intervention and building self-reliance in communities it no longer needs to cut services and is in a confident position to make the rest of the saving.
Lord Peter Smith, leader of Wigan Council, said: “I want to thank my colleagues for their bravery in supporting the different but unproven vision of the Deal. This budget demonstrates the success of the Deal approach and is a reward of the faith of my fellow councillors.
“The Deal has radically changed the way we deliver services compared to the past and will help us maintain a secure financial position in the future.
“Not only is it great news for our residents that there is no increase to general council tax but we do not need to make any additional cuts to our frontline services.
“By setting out our strategy through The Deal we have been able to achieve our savings targets while improving the services we deliver to residents.
“We were initially criticised for this approach but we are now seeing clear benefits.
“We are ahead of schedule with our savings plan and the council is in a strong position going into 2018/19.
“However this does not mean that we do not have any challenges ahead of us. There are still significant risks of financial pressure particularly from the areas of adult social care and children’s services.
“With an ageing population and more demand than ever before on our social care services we, along with most councils, are in a position where we can’t refuse the adult social care precept to fund these vital services.
“We have to do what is necessary to maintain high quality, safe and personalised for those who are in need in our communities.”
A recent report highlighted some of the achievements so far in the Deal for the Future, the council’s strategy to 2020, especially in economic growth with the borough’s employment rate increasing to 75.3 per cent, the highest in the region, and the local economy increased by 4 per cent.
Reform in children’s services helped the council achieve a ‘Good’ rating from Ofsted and deliver a new model for early years through its Start Well centres.
Satisfaction with the council from residents increased to 65 per cent and the number of residents that feel the council provides value for money increased to 50 per cent.
The council’s recycling rate has also increased and is expected to hit 50 per cent after a move from a fortnightly bin collection to every three weeks.
Lord Smith added: “We could not have achieved what we have done without the tremendous support of our residents who have embraced The Deal.
“We will remain committed to following the principles of The Deal and delivering efficient high quality reformed services to our residents.”
Posted on Monday 12th February 2018