Westmorland and Furness Council consult on council tax

An introduction from Councillor Andrew Jarvis, Cabinet Member for Finance

Since the local elections last year and the creation of the Westmorland and Furness Shadow Authority we have been talking to our communities and working on our recently published Council Plan.

It’s an exciting and ambitious plan, and with April only a few months away, it will soon be put into action.

In our plan we are clear about our vision. We want Westmorland and Furness to be a great place to live, work and thrive.

We are also clear about our priorities. We want to support people to have healthy lives, reduce inequality,drive delivery of carbon net zero, support our communities and enable sustainable economic

growth. We know our focus on these issues will make a positive difference. We also know that achieving the transformation of our services and the delivery of our plan must done in a financially sustainable way.

As everyone has experienced, costs have been rising rapidly because of the high rate of inflation. The council is not immune from that. We calculate that the cost of delivering essential local services will increase by £20 million in 2023/24.

The funding we expect from the Government will not meet this increase.

To allow us to get started straight-away on delivering our ambitions for Westmorland and Furness, and continue to support essential local services, we are therefore reliant on the local flexibility around council tax levels to generate additional increases in the council’s income.

It is a decision we have not taken lightly, but in line with what the Government has assumed, we are proposing to increase council tax for 2023/24. We know that many households are finding it difficult financially, that’s why we have tried hard to keep the increase to the minimum and will continue to support those who are financially vulnerable through our council tax reduction scheme.

You will also see that we are proposing a higher level of council tax on second homes from 1 April 2024.

Second home ownership has a big impact in parts of Westmorland and Furness. By charging a higher rate of council tax we can generate significant additional income to help us deliver our priorities for the area and provide additional assistance to communities most affected by second home ownership.

Finally, as part of the Local Government Reorganisation requirements, we must harmonise council tax rates across Westmorland and Furness.

They currently differ by around £50 a year depending on which district council area you live in. Harmonisation means creating a level playing field, so you’ll pay the same irrespective of where you live in Westmorland and Furness. We think it’s fair that people should pay the same level of council tax.

These are big decisions for our new council to make, but as Westmorland and Furness Council one of our core values is listening to our communities and working with you on the issues that matter most.

That’s why I would encourage everyone share their views on what we are proposing through our consultation.

Closing date for responses is 13 February 2023.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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