COUNCIL tax must rise in Worcestershire to avoid a crisis in children’s care - amid fears more families may need help.
That’s the vow from the leader of Worcestershire County Council, who says he believes taxpayers are willing to accept a hike of nearly two per cent to help the vulnerable.
As your Worcester News revealed on Wednesday, a first rise since 2010 is on the cards at County Hall, adding £19.88 to the yearly average £1,453 band D bill.
Leader Councillor Adrian Hardman said the rise will help pay for an extra £4 million towards children’s social care.
At the moment around 650 children are in care in Worcestershire, the highest on record, and there are fears it could rise because of households struggling to make ends meet.
The budget for 2014/15 includes £29 million of cuts, with children’s care one of the few areas protected.
Coun Hardman, speaking during a cabinet meeting, said: “The bit of the budget which could be controversial is the council tax rise.
“But I’m absolutely determined that we won’t have children’s social workers driven by financial pressures, and that they make the correct decisions as to whether a child should go into care or not.
“We are targeting a council tax rise which will allow us to address this overspend (of £4 million) because we think the pressures on children’s services will not go away in the short term.”
For the last three years the Conservative leadership has opted to take a cash sweetener from the Government, worth a one per cent council tax rise, to accept a freeze for the public.
That has saved households around £65 each, but Coun Hardman said the financial pressures are too great to continue.
Councillor Marcus Hart, cabinet member for health and well-being, said: “I have always been a believer in low council tax, and have always advocated taking the freeze grants (from central Government), but after doing that for three years I think it’s right to consult over a rise.
“This will help support the pressures for looked-after children and I do think there is a groundswell that residents would be prepared to see an increase to help the most vulnerable.”
The budget will be voted on by full council in February, and if accepted a rise will kick in from April.