Wigan Council tax bills to increase as town hall sets its budget
Council tax will rise by nearly four per cent in Wigan, ending a seven-year freeze.
The 3.99 per cent increase, which will mostly be spent on social care, will cost Band A households, the most common banding in the borough, an extra £35 a year.
New spending announcements were also revealed by the Labour-run local authority on Wednesday night as it set its budget for the next financial year.
Free car parking will continue on weekends in Wigan and Leigh town centres and 100 new apprenticeships and graduate jobs will be created at the council.
A £2m fund will also be set up to support community groups in the borough.
Councillors promise there will be no further cuts to services or job losses despite needing to find around £9m in savings over the next financial year.
But Tyldesley councillor Nazia Rehman, who is responsible for finance, resources and transformation at the town hall, confirmed the council tax hike.
She said: “For the few this increase is manageable. But for most of our residents this will take a toll on their tiny budgets.
“We realise that many more people will be moving to Universal Credit and many more people will be losing their jobs.
“So we remain steadfast to support them with our generous welfare offer and council tax support scheme.”
More than 13,000 households will be able to claim 100 per cent council tax relief, she said, and a further 14,997 households will qualify for an 80 per cent discount.
Most of the council tax increase, estimated to generate a total of £4.8m in income for the local authority, will be ringfenced for adult social care spending.
Adult services will receive an extra £2.5m every year for the next four years and the children’s services department will get £10m to tackle overspending.
A pay rise for carers will cost the council £2.1m and a further £750,000 will be invested into reablement services to help people become more independent.
More than £700,000 will be spent on homelessness and the same sum will help victims of domestic abuse, the portfolio holder for finance revealed.
Coun Rehman also revealed that the council will be spending £29.4m on the local housing market, by both buying and building new properties and using businesses in the borough where possible in a bid to "kick-start" the economy.
Wigan West councillor Terry Halliwell confirmed 96 homes have been added to the council’s housing stock this year with a further 266 in the next year.
Pemberton councillor Paul Prescott said that the council will be investing an additional £1m into its housing stock every year to reduce carbon emissions.
He also announced a pledge to plant a tree for every citizen of the borough who has died due to Covid, adding to the 70,000 which were planted this year.
Councillors were told £600,000 would be put towards the Our Town fund to "revitalise" town centres across the borough, with further funding possible.
But opposition councillors called for more money to be spent on smaller towns complaining the bulk of the regeneration budget benefits Wigan and Leigh.
The Conservatives put forward an amendment, calling for towns like Orrell, Standish, Lowton, Golborne, Ashton and Shevington to be the top priority.
Tory group leader councillor Michael Winstanley said these town centres have missed out on funding in the past because they are not classed as "deprived".
The Atherton Independent Network called for £7m of the £47m town centre investment framework to be set aside for areas outside of Wigan and Leigh.
And independent councillors in Hindley Green shared what was described as a "shopping list" of spending for their ward, including a £1m community centre.
Independent councillors across the borough backed an amendment by Bryn councillor Steve Jones which called for capital spending labelled on the budget as The Fire Within – Leigh to be spent on maintaining green spaces instead.
But Labour councillor Chris Ready clarified that this £250,000 is to be spent on the renovation of Leigh Town Hall and not on a new exhibition in the town like the one already established at The Galleries shopping centre in Wigan.
The cabinet member also announced £2m for a new Community Recovery Fund which he said will "touch all parts of our community in the coming year".
Council leader David Molyneux said he hopes Leigh Town Hall will open in the summer accommodating archives, a new museum and an exhibition space.
He also confirmed that free parking at council-owned car parks in Wigan and Leigh town centres will continue at weekends in a bid to support businesses.
Concluding the budget meeting, which lasted nearly four hours, the leader said: “I think tonight we’ve shown that we’ve got the right budget in place to serve all the borough. Sometimes members forget that the services we provide cover every part of this borough. Adult social care, children’s services, highways. Everything that we do covers the full length of this borough.
“I’m very confident that the budget we will approve tonight is the right budget for this authority and it will make sure that the prosperity of this borough carries on for a long time to come.”
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