Supporting the district’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and investing in projects that help to build a sustainable and just local economy are at the heart of Lancaster City Council’s budget for 2021/22.
On Wednesday (February 24) city councillors agreed proposals which focus on providing for the immediate needs of communities while also investing for the future.
This includes funding to address the climate emergency, to develop and deliver regeneration projects in Morecambe and Heysham, Bailrigg Garden Village, and a programme of activity to maintain and improve council and community assets.
Councillor Anne Whitehead, cabinet member with responsibility for finance, said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on people’s health and livelihood, and continues to do so.
“In the Lancaster district, as in many places across the country, the public sector and community-led organisations have stepped up to provide support for vulnerable people and businesses based on our knowledge, expertise and collaboration.
“We have worked closely with Morecambe Bay Foodbank, Eggcup, and other food groups to make sure no one goes hungry, and the Community Hub and volunteer line continue, as they have done since the beginning of the pandemic, to be a central point for residents needing help.
“Our main focus must be to continue this work and provide for the immediate needs of our communities as we recover from the effects of the pandemic, as well as building a sustainable and just local economy that benefits people and organisations. More information on the support and assistance available during the pandemic can be accessed at Lancaster.gov.uk/coronavirus or by telephoning 01524 582000.
“Now is the time to press ahead with regeneration, green energy, housing and economic development projects if we are to achieve long-term social, economic and environmental benefits for our communities.”
As the district’s largest social landlord, the council is also investing in its housing stock and services for tenants with plans to convert a number of vacant properties to supported housing, and a programme of work to further improve the energy efficiency of tenants’ homes.
Looking to the future, the budget also sets out a priority to tackle a structural budget deficit of approximately £2.183M in 2022/23, which has arisen due to significant changes in how Local Government is funded. Covid-19 and Brexit, along with changes to how Local Government is organised, will also impact, directly or indirectly, the council’s finances.
Tackling this deficit will require the development of new funding and income generation streams as well as ongoing work to improve the operating costs of the council and closely align its work with priorities. The consultation on forming a Unitary Authority to bring power closer to communities is a key part of this, and people can have your say on The Bay proposals at https://consult.communities.gov.uk/governance-reform-and-democracy/cumbria.
To implement the Government’s funding pledge, the portion of Council Tax collected by Lancaster City Council is set to increase by an average of £5 (2.16%) a year, or 10p a week, for those in a Band D property.
As 80% of the district's homes are in the lowest bands (A to C), the actual increase will be even lower than £5 for the majority of households.
While as the billing authority Lancaster City Council collects Council Tax, it only receives around 12% of the total bill to spend on its services.
Excluding parishes, of the remaining bill, the majority goes to Lancashire County Council (73%), with precepts from Lancashire Police Authority (11%) and Lancashire Combined Fire Authority (4%) making up the rest.
Lancashire County Council has increased its rate of council tax by 3.99%, Lancashire Fire Authority 1.99% and Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner by 7.09%.
For those households that are struggling to pay their Council Tax, Lancaster City Council is one of the few remaining councils in the country to maintain a Council Tax Support Scheme which provides up to 100% support to households on low incomes.
Other options for residents struggling to pay their Council Tax include revised instalment plans and deferred payments, where appropriate.
More information, and contact details for the Council Tax team, is available at Lancaster.gov.uk/council-tax.