Next month (February 2020) both Bury Council and also all the joint authorities that cover Greater Manchester will be setting their budgets for 2020-21.
In Bury, the Council (like all local authorities) will continue to need to save very significant amounts of money. Nobody knows what the Government’s plans are beyond 2020-21, but the current estimate is that Bury Council faces a challenge of c £31 million over the next 5 years. This estimate assumes that Council Tax goes up by 2% a year.
Bury Council has an unusually low level of ‘reserves’, so using reserves to fund year-to-year service is not possible.
The Council will set its budget on 26 February 2020. Councils are ‘capped’ by Government on how much they can rise Council Tax (without a referendum). This is just below 2%, though once again the Government is allowing a further 2% ‘Social Care Precept’ rise, so effectively this is just under 4%. Even if Bury does rise Council Tax by this amount there still needs to be savings of nearly £9 million in 2020-21. We don’t yet know what proposals will be brought forwards by the ruling (Labour) group on how to meet this gap.
Many of our services are provided at a Greater Manchester level:
Police – remarkably the Government hasn’t event told police forces what their level of grant will be from 1 April. There is the Government promise of extra police officers, but it seems like police forces like GMP will be made to put up Council tax locally make the budget balance. The Government sets a maximum rise that is allowed, something like £10 a year for a band D house.
Fire – fire faces significant budgetary pressures. In the current year the budget has balance by using reserves to prop up spending. It could be that this continues in 2020-21 but ultimately this is not sustainable.
Transport and Mayor – the biggest areas of change we are likely to see at a Greater Manchester level in 2020-21 are around the Mayor’s own council tax and particularly around transport.
The Mayor introduced free bus travel for 16-18 year olds last year. If this is going to continue then he will need to put up his own Mayoral Council tax significantly to pay for it.
The other very major piece of spending that won’t have an impact on our bills this year, but very much will in the future is the prospect of bus re-regulation. The cost of this in the first five years in Greater Manchester is early £140 million and about £23 million of that would need to come from putting up Council Tax more that it would have been over the next five years.
More information as we get it and any questions please ask. Please let us know your views on Council finances (comment below, or email Councillor Tim Pickstone).