ST HELENS COUNCIL’S cabinet is expected to approve a council tax rise this week.

Labour councillors approved a 3.99 per cent rise – which comprises of a 1.99 per cent council tax increase and a 2 per cent adult social care precept – ‘in principle’ at its meeting in January.

On Wednesday, cabinet will be asked to formally approve the increase, before going to full council for a final decision.

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“The government introduced a requirement for councils to undertake a local referendum if they intend to exceed a level determined by the government as excessive,” a report on the council’s revenue and capital budget for 2020-2021 says.

The proposed increase will see council tax for Band D property in St Helens, excluding parish precepts, being set at £1,503.75.

The council says this will generate an extra £3 million.

“Increasing the council tax will provide sustainable income to the council which will help to protect the delivery of statutory functions and other vital services at a time of increasing service demands, and it is therefore proposed that a council tax increase of 3.99 per cent is agreed, inclusive of the application of a 2 per cent adult social care precept, with the 2020-2021 Band D Council Tax (excluding parish precepts) being set at £1,503.75,” the report says.

In addition, councillors will be asked to approve an increase in the council tax premium for long-term empty properties.

In February 2019, the council increased the premium on long-term properties from 50 per cent to 100 per cent, following a change in legislation.

The legislation was introduced by central government to deter owners from leaving properties empty, promote properties being brought back into use and reduce the detrimental effect empty properties can have neighbourhoods.

It is proposed that the premium on properties that have been empty for five years or more will rise to 200 per cent from April 1, 2020.

From April 1, 2021, it proposed this will rise to 300 per cent for properties that have been empty for ten years or more.

Cabinet will be asked to approve several other actions relating to the budget at its meeting on Wednesday.

St Helens Star: St Helens Town HallSt Helens Town Hall

According to the budget report, 2020-2021 will be a “pivotal year” in developing the strategies and actions to protect the council’s financial and operational stability over the longer term.

The report, which is signed off by Cath Fogarty, executive director for corporate services, says it is considered that the council’s budget for 2020-2021 is “robust”.

“The budget has been formulated and agreed against the challenge of historical central government-imposed austerity and significant, increasing, demand-led pressures, particularly in relation to demand for children’s social care,” the report says.

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“Opportunities to manage the demand for services through non-statutory, preventative and early intervention remain key.

“The aim of the budget is to provide, within the overarching constraints that exist, the most appropriate balance of resources to deliver the council’s statutory responsibilities and to set a foundation for, and facilitate, the delivery of the council’s key ambitions and its existing and emerging corporate priorities and borough level strategic objectives.”