Council tax rise on the cards for Dorset

Council tax rise on the cards for Dorset

Published by Maria Greenwood at 7:48am 15th January 2020.

Dorset council hopes to be setting a realistic budget for next year – but one which will still carry risks of over-spending.

Despite extra millions from the Government local people will be expected to find a four per cent hike in Dorset Council’s share of the council tax.

Once police and fire services are added in, together with some town and parish council precepts, many of us are likely to be paying 5 per cent more from the spring.

After a year where both adult and children’s services were badly overspent the council is pushing more money into both for 2020/21 – an extra £11.7m proposed for adult services and £10.3m for children.

But councillors heard on Monday that even with the extra cash the council could easily still end up with an over-spend.

andrew parry

Cllr Andrew Parry, Cabinet member for children’s services, (pictured above) said that with the best will and even looking at past trends and population projections it was impossible to accurately forecast for demand-led services.

He admitted that an £800,000 contingency built in next year’s budget for residential placements could easily be blown out of the water by just two children with exceptional needs, or another batch of unexpected but less complex cases.

He he told a scrutiny committee meeting in Dorchester:

"We are going into the budget period with our eyes wide open – whatever scenario we look at there is likely to be an element of risk…if we find ourselves with an unexpected ten high cost cases we will, once again, find ourselves under pressure."

He said that while people used to think they were not listened to the new council had:

“an absolute commitment to engage with our communities and our partners.”

He said part of this would involve cutting down on the procedures which had to be gone through to get a child additional funding for health and education needs.

He said this was being cut from a maximum of 47 processes to 12 and that agreements on special educational need transport should soon be decided in 4-6 weeks, rather than the previous three months.

Dorset Council, south walks house

In the current financial year (2019-20) the council is currently forecasting an overspend of £8.2m on directly controlled budgets, and £6.5m on funding for schools and education.

It says this overspend is largely due to what it describes as “unprecedented and growing levels” of demand for social care services.

Opposition councillors have said that the Tory-controlled council were simply unrealistic when they set this year’s budget, paying more attention to what they wanted to happen, rather than what was actually happening.

The authority has since been helped by being given an extra £6million in grants from the Government, mainly for social care spending, and has made more than £10million in savings this year from its transformation programme alone – mainly by shedding jobs.

pound coins money

Monday’s committee heard that even with the extra cash from the Government and the extra income from rises in the council tax and the savings being made, every department at Dorset Council will have to continue to make efficiencies– including social services.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter