Budget Question and Answers
Budget mythbusting: answers to common questions about budget savings. These will be added to as more questions are asked during the consultation.
Question: What do I pay my council tax for?
Answer: This is a question that is often asked as many people are not aware of the huge range of services that are part funded by council tax.
Your council tax helps pay for things like waste collection, street lighting, parks and road repairs. But it also goes towards services that help keep people safe like trading standards and environmental health, as well as services to help some of the most vulnerable people in our communities like older people or children in care. It also helps pay towards police and fire services.
Question: Why do we have to pay more council tax for less services? Can I get a reduction?
Answer: The council tax you pay only covers a fraction of the cost of all the services we need to provide. The majority of our funding currently comes from government and business rates with only 19% coming from council tax.
Each 3.99% increase in Council Tax brings in extra funding of around £3million a year, so if we were to meet our gap through council tax alone residents would be facing a rise of 24.5%! This is something we would never and cannot do as the government sets a cap on how much we are able to raise council tax.
Question: You seem to have a lot of money in reserves, why don’t you use some of that to help balance your budget?
Answer: The Council maintains a general reserve to cover unforeseen and unplanned for expenditure alongside reserves for specific purposes which are known as earmarked. With the cuts hitting us so quickly we have had to use some of our reserves to help give us time to bring about some of the changes needed. But they can only be used once – once they are gone, they are gone. Reserve levels are reviewed each year, but the continued use of reserves cannot be sustained in the longer term without placing the Council’s financial position at risk.
Question: Why do I have to pay extra to get my garden waste taken away? Is this not paid through Council Tax?
Answer: Garden waste is not something we are required by law to collect. In the past we were able to provide the service free of charge but due to massive reductions in our funding from government we are no longer able to do this. However, by households paying £31 - £33 per year, which is approx. £2 per collection, the service is able to continue.
Question: If you haven’t got any money why are you putting in so many new cycle lanes in Gateshead?
Answer: We received money from the government that can only be spent on making improvements to the roads for cyclists. We’ve put in a number of new cycle lanes in central Gateshead to encourage people to commute to work by bike and leave their cars at home. This is better for the environment, helps ease traffic congestion and is good for cyclists’ health.
Question: If you haven’t got any money why are you digging roads up in the town centre?
Answer: We’re building a new District Energy Centre near the town centre which will provide cheaper energy for households and businesses, and will cut carbon emissions. Investing in projects like the District Energy Centre is really important as they will help us bring in income which we will be able to spend on services.
Questions: How can people have their say about the budget proposals?
Answer: Go online and give their views on our website until 6 January. There will also be more detailed consultations on specific areas of service delivery, we want as many people as possible to give their views so that they can help us make the right decisions.