“What do I pay Council tax for and why does it keep going up?”
The Council Tax we all pay, the lowest in the North East region, is used to fund a variety of services with the majority going towards social care costs and education but also covers Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue and the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria.
The council needs to collect £5.3m more from Council Tax payers in 2020-2021 than it did in 2019-2020. This is because government funding is insufficient to meet increasing spending pressures.
Additional to insufficient government funding there has been a marked increase in the number of working age council tax support claimants since the start of the year (thereby reducing the amount of council tax that is payable), reduced collection rates reflecting the difficulties our residents are facing, and a reduction in the forecast housebuilding. As with business rates, this forecast shortfall would manifest itself as a deficit to be taken into account in setting the 2021/2022 to 2023/2024 budgets.
It is important to note that residents of Hetton have an increased Council Tax compared to Washington and Sunderland West as they also have a Town Council.
Just 14% of the council's income is from Council Tax compared to more than 55% from Central Government which means that every cut the Tories make is a cut to the services we provide to you
Even before Covid, more than 51% of the budget went towards social care and education services but those care costs have risen massively because of the pandemic
What is the difference between a Councillor and an MP?
Councillors are elected to represent a ward area at Sunderland City Council. Councillors make council policy and take decisions on the council’s budget, council priorities and how the council should be run. For example, part of their role is to make decisions on planning and licensing issues. They are supported and advised in their decision-making by officers (staff) who work in the various council departments and implement the decisions.
Members of Parliament (MPs) are elected to represent a constituency in the House of Commons. MPs divide their time between their constituency and working in Parliament in London. Our MP, Sharon Hodgson, usually travels to London on a Monday and returns on a Thursday meaning that Friday is devoted to meetings in the constituency either with residents, businesses or other stakeholders like schools, trade unions or charities.
In a representative democracy like ours both Councillors and MPs are elected to make judgements of what they feel is in the best interests of their residents and their ward or constituency.
“I thought the council has no money, how are they building a new City Hall?”
The building of City Hall will be funded by investment from Legal & General meaning there will be no cost to the city’s residents
Legal & General have committed finance to the regeneration of our city which is a testement to the potential that one of the world’s largest investment managers can see across Sunderland. It is hoped that L&G’s vote of confidence will accelerate the transformation of the former Vaux site and have a ripple effect into the city centre, creating a more vibrant High Street.
Chief Executive of Sunderland City Council, Patrick Melia, said the investment represented a ‘serious vote of confidence’ in Sunderland, something that had been secured thanks to the ambition and vision of the council, which now leads on the city’s development plans having taken full control of Siglion earlier this year.
He said: “Make no mistake, today’s announcement is the single most significant investment story to come out of Sunderland for decades.
As well as the fact that the building cost is covered by the investment from L&G, the future costs, such as the 35 year lease of the building, will be part funded by other tenents such as the Department for Work and Pensions and Gentoo meaning that the cost to the residents of our city is further reduced.
This is also because of the difference between capital and revenue budgets
Capital budget is for one off spending to improve infrastructure like building the Spire Bridge to connect the International Advanced Manufaturing Park to the Port of Sunderland or the City Hall. Revenue budget is what the council uses to run services like social care, road maintence and bin collections. If the council were to used its capital budget to run services then the following year we would no longer have that money to put into services meaning they couldn’t be funded but also the city would not own a valuable asset.
Council Leader, Councillor Graeme Miller, said: “We’re delighted that the contract to build City Hall has been awarded to a Sunderland based company, with all the benefits that brings with it in terms of local jobs created and money spent with local companies and in the local economy.