Question and answers continued
We already have; we've been under financial pressure for several years now and have had to evolve to become leaner and more flexible. Since 2011 we have made significant staffing cuts because of the withdrawal of government funding, and our approach has focused on protecting frontline services as much as possible. We've shared services with other councils, renegotiated our major contracts to achieve efficiency savings and we're reviewing our assets. That means that we are better equipped to tackle this challenge than many other councils.
Back office staff play just as important a role as their front line colleagues. Their contribution ensures that front line staff are well prepared and free to do their jobs effectively.
At nearly 99% we have one of the best council tax collection rates in London, and we will continue working to boost it further.
We couldn't put up business rates even if we wanted to - they are set on a national basis by the Government. An increase in business rates would in any case not tackle our budget challenge on its own, because as things stand, about 70% of all business rates receipts from Kingston borough are taken by the Government. Nonetheless we are exploring ways to generate more income by supporting the setup of new businesses, which will increase our business rate receipts.
We are allowed to increase council tax by up to 1.99% without having to consult our residents, and the 3% increase in the social care precept counts as an extra levy rather than an increase in the council tax rate. We did however hold a number of engagement events in late 2016 called the Kingston Conversations, which covered our future and the role that both we and residents need to play going forward. The events set out the financial challenge we face and how we plan to meet that challenge and asked residents to share their thoughts on our budget.
The Government has allowed councils which provide social care to adults to increase their share of council tax by up to an extra 3%. This additional council tax charge is called the adult social care precept.
In 2017/18 it will raise an estimated £2.584m.
We are only allowed to charge the adult social care precept if we intend to spend it on adult social care; the Government could perform a check to ensure that authorities are complying with this policy. Our budget for 2017/18 includes an increase in funding for adult social care funded by the increase in council tax, whilst expenditure across the rest of the council is falling. This is shown in the budget papers available here.
No - you will be charged for both at the same time through your normal council tax statements. The social care precept will however be shown as a separate item on your statement.
We expect the growth in users and the rising price of providing care to add several million pounds to the cost of adult social care this year. Although some of this will be paid for by the adult social care precept, the rest will be funded by the 1.99% portion of council tax increase.
1.99% is the maximum the Government allows councils to raise council tax by without having to hold a referendum. With the 3% adult social care precept also in place this year, we have chosen to limit the rise in council tax to 1.99%. Added together, the total rise of 4.99% will work out as an extra £1.35 per week for a Band D council tax payer.
We are legally required to show this increase on your council tax statement, rounded to one decimal place. That means it will appear as a 2% increase.