Opinion: “Keeping municipal tax rates low in Peterborough is not sustainable”
Over the summer we were visited by the Local Government Association and a team of advisers and officers from other councils to conduct a peer review.
This was not a formal inspection, but a chance for us to get feedback from colleagues in local government on what we are doing well, what could be done differently and ideas for the future.
Last week the report was released and I’m happy to say it highlighted the council’s success in tackling the pandemic and found it worked tirelessly, providing an ‘exemplary’ response.
He also said that we can build on this success to help the city successfully recover from Covid, if we can unite people and politicians to achieve lasting financial sustainability. He also praised the council for its openness and transparency regarding its difficult budget issues.
We have a known budget gap of £ 27.6million next year and are working on ideas on how to achieve those savings.
But we also need a plan for how we achieve long-term financial sustainability, which means being able to deliver the services our residents need with the budget we have each year. We need to get to this point quickly because we cannot continue to save year after year as we have over the past decade.
Last Friday we released our phase one proposals which, if adopted by the full Council in December, will deliver around £ 10million in savings that we need to achieve. You can read the proposals in full on our website and have your say.
In January, we will release our second phase to completely close the budget gap, which will include our plans for the housing tax which will need to increase to meet the financial challenges we have.
With public finances still unclear, we cannot commit to the amount of the housing tax, but people should expect it to increase so that we can continue to provide the services they need and work to make the city even better.
Peterborough residents have long enjoyed lower municipal taxes than elsewhere, which has helped so many people in the city, but it is no longer sustainable to keep our rates as low as they used to be.
In Peterborough we have the ninth lowest average tax rate for D-Band councils compared to other unitary authorities and therefore we need to take a position where we are more equal to other councils.
To put it in context, the current D-band rate is £ 1,476 and if Peterborough were able to switch to the average unitary municipal tax rate of £ 1,599 (a difference of £ 131.59 to 8.9 %), this would generate an additional £ 7.2million per year. If we were to switch to the higher rate charged by other unitary authorities it would generate an additional £ 25million!
We never want to ask residents to pay more housing tax, but to meet people’s expectations for services, we all have to be prepared to pay more.
It is clear from the Peer Challenge report that we are a board that can achieve what we set out to do. We have been very successful in attracting external funding and have worked tirelessly to support residents throughout the pandemic, but we know that in many cases their needs are now even greater than before. To continue to support them and our city in the long term, we must now make the tough decisions that lie ahead.
Covid-19 rates have been rising in Peterborough for many weeks now and are currently higher than they have ever been. At the time of writing it’s 686 per 100,000 and our public health experts tell us that over the past two weeks there has been a 20-day doubling rate, which means if they continue to grow at the same rate, we will be well above 1,000 cases per 100,000 by next month.
This increase is largely due to transmission in the school-aged population, which causes serious disruption in schools and puts vulnerable children and parents at risk. Rates are also starting to rise in parental age groups as well as those over 60 and we are seeing outbreaks in nursing homes again. The health service is also impacted by the increase in Covid admissions as well as by staff having to stay at home with their children who have caught it.
This is really concerning, especially considering that fewer people in Peterborough are doubly vaccinated compared to the national average.
We need everyone to do three simple things – say yes to the vaccine (both doses), test if you have symptoms and do a quick test twice a week if you don’t, and follow the advice hands. , face, space. If we can all do all of this, then virus rates will drop in the city. Most importantly, we will keep our essential public services running, our economy open, and all of us free from restrictions and serious illnesses.
And finally, if you were shopping downtown on Sunday, you might have seen a 12 foot red heart in Cathedral Square. It’s part of Unlocking Peterborough, the free family-friendly circus, music and art festival that runs through December with circus performances, musicals, street theater, works by local artists and a winter wonderland of Christmas.
On Halloween weekend, visitors will witness otherworldly creatures in the downtown area, including the silent Las Muertas Stilt Walkers and Cali and Mari the octopuses.
For more information on events, visit www.visitpeterborough.com