Council tax rise on cards for North Somerset ?
PEOPLE in North Somerset could see their council tax rise this year as cash-strapped council purseholders battle to balance the authority's books.
Authority leaders are considering whether to raise council tax bills by between one and two per cent for 2013/14 in a bid to raise much needed cash.
The council, which is proposing a budget of £158.427 million for 2013/14, is facing making savings over £86 million over the next seven years.
The council's bleak financial outlook follows changes to the way that the Government allocates funding and a reduction in its revenue support grant.
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Authority leaders are now considering whether to increase council tax which would generate an estimated £1.6 million.
The authority can only raise council tax by up to two per cent before a referendum is needed.
Other options include accepting a council tax freeze grant of £916,000.
The authority could then bring forward the remaining £756,000 from the 2012/13 freeze grant, adding a further £1.6 million to its coffers.
Initially the authority was facing a funding shortfall of £4.7 million for the 2013/14 financial year.
But a series of measures, including reducing corporate growth and reviewing existing directorate budgets, reducing contingency by £500,000 and using the £1.6 million generated by council tax increases or the use of the freeze grant has helped reduce this to £266,000.
North Somerset Council executive member for finance, Councillor Tony Lake, said accepting the freeze grant could leave the authority teetering on a financial cliff in the future.
Mr Lake said: "When the freeze grants run out the council could be left on a financial cliff
"We may have to raise council tax by more in the future as a result of taking the grants.
"This could be as much as five or six per cent although this would be unlikely as any increase is likely to be capped.
"Left with such a financial gap could lead to the council having to make savings in the future which could affect frontline services."
Mr Lake said the authority was continuing to provide services while making savings by operating more effectively.
He said: "Our policy has been to find different and more effective way of providing services.
"We have managed to so this and provide a high standard of services but it is becoming increasingly hard to do so.
"No one wants to put up council tax but we have to pay our bills."
Mr Lake said final budget figures still had to be decided as the authority was still waiting for details of some government grants.
The council's executive is to meet on February 5 where it will recommend a final budget to the council.
The final budget will be set by council at a meeting on February 19.