The Council is about half way through a public consultation on it's 2016/7 budget. I'm not proposing to go through it in detail - all of that is available elsewhere - but did want to comment on a couple of aspects of the draft budget. The first is Council Tax.
Manchester is not a high council tax authority. Our Band D Council Tax is the second lowest in Greater Manchester and our average council tax bill is the second lowest in the country. The average increase in the council's share of the overall bill ( Police and Fire set their shares separately ) over the last fifteen years has been 1/2% less than inflation per year i.e. in real terms bills are 7.5% lower now than they were in 2000. Yet next year we, like the majority of the Councils in the country, are proposing to increase the bill by 3.99% .
2% of the increase is effectively mandated by central government to pay for the increased costs of adult social care, but in reality that 2% will meet less than half of the impact of the new national minimum wage alone on social care budgets never mind the impact of demographic change. I'm all in favour of low paid workers getting more money which is why the minimum the Council pays its own staff is the Manchester Minimum Wage, currently equal to the national living wage. However imposing the national minimum wage on all our contractors without the money to pay for it simply means more cuts.
In recent years, Government has paid us a freeze grant to keep the Council Tax down. They have now scrapped the freeze grant and so, like other Councils, we feel we have very little choice but to raise Council Tax by a further 1.9% to mitigate the impact of cuts. Even then we will still have to make a further £13m of budget cuts, on top of those in previous years and Manchester is still being unfairly treated. If we had had the average cut over the last 6 years we would be £75m per year, £1.5m a week better off.
Although we are having to make cuts, we are still looking at how we can respond to citizen priorities. The recent very successful consultation on the Manchester Strategy identified rubbish as a key concern of residents. So as part of the budget proposals we are considering a hit squad to be up and running in April concentrating on dumping and fly-tipping with the aim of catching perpetrators and with a zero tolerance approach to the culprits.