Stockport residents will see their council tax bills rise by 4pc from April – but thousands of households will get a ‘cost of living’ rebate to cushion the blow.
The hike – which includes Andy Burnham’s mayoral precepts – was approved at the council’s annual budget setting meeting on Thursday night.
It means that an average Band D household will pay an extra £83.25 over the course of the 2022/23 financial year.
READMORE: Why does council tax keep going up in Greater Manchester?
But for once the Labor administration found itself in agreement with the Lib Dem opposition, voting through their proposal to hand out £15 to more than 100,000 households in bands AD, as fuel, food and energy prices begin to soar.
Funded through reserves, this would effectively cover the increase in the ‘general’ element of council tax, which accounts for 1pc of the rise.
The move was not welcomed by the Conservative group, however, who said it was not fair to demand more money from residents while the council was sitting on £92m in reserves at the start of the financial year.
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Labor council leader Elise Wilson told the meeting it was a budget concerned with ‘fairness and the future’.
She said: “This is a budget for our times. A budget to balance the immense pressures of today with the extraordinary opportunities of tomorrow.
“A budget that takes the limited funds we receive from the government and molds them using Labor values to benefit our town as much as possible.”
She told the meeting it was ‘no ordinary budget’ but one taking place in a ‘deeply unsettled’ world and amid a cost of living crisis, where people were having to choose between heating and eating.
Coun Wilson outlined a £1.5m package of one-off monies that would be ploughed into flood prevention, tackling anti-social behavior and mental health services, among other schemes included in the budget.
And she said that the council would ensure every social care worker, council worker and council contractor was paid at least the Real Living Wage of £9.90.
“Every pound in every paragraph of this budget matters,” she told councillors.
Lib Dem leader Coun Mark Hunter said his group had looked in ‘great detail’ at Labour’s proposals, and accepted there were ‘no easy answers’.
But, he added, ‘unprecedented times call for unprecedented action and fresh thinking’.
“We believe it’s the duty of all councilors to mitigate against the impact of further council tax increases as best we can,” said Coun Hunter.
“Accordingly, and in line with the circumstances already outlined, my colleagues and I are proposing a council tax rebate for those least able to afford increases.
“To be specific a ‘cost of living’ rebate to all those households in council tax bands AD, which is 82pc of all households.”
But while this found favor with Labour, the Conservatives were not so impressed.
Tory group leader Coun Mike Hurleston said the one-off nature of the funding meant the rise would still kick in the following year, on top of any further increase that may be approved.
“We recognize that residents face a cost of living crisis that is affecting everyone and our stance is that the council has the financial resilience to stomach a freeze on council tax this year,” he added.
“In the last five years council tax has been put up by 25pc, at the same time, the council’s cash reserves have grown significantly. At the start of this financial year the reserves stood at £92m.”
Coun Hurleston continued: “Against that background we can’t agree to demanding more money from residents while reserves build and we effectively transfer money from residents’ pockets – and transfer out of the local economy – into council coffers.”
However the Labor budget, as amended by the Liberal Democrat amendment, was passed by all councilors – including Green and independents – bar the eight-strong Conservative group.
The vote on both the amendment and substantive budget was as follows:
Stockport council met at the town hall on Thursday night (February 24).
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.