Glastonbury residents facing sharp rise in council tax bills as authorities try to balance books
By Tim Lethaby
14th Feb 2021 | Local News
Glastonbury residents will see sharp rises in their council tax bills as their local authorities seek to balance their budgets and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Somerset County Council and the four district councils – Mendip, Sedgemoor, Somerset West & Taunton and South Somerset – have all published their annual budget proposals, which will be approved by councillors before the end of February.
Each of the five local authorities is raising their portion of the council tax by the highest possible amount without triggering a referendum, with similar rises being planned by the police and fire services.
Here's your guide to how your council tax will be going up, and what it pays for:
What does my council tax pay for?
Council tax was implemented in 1993 to replace the widely unpopular community charge (also known as the poll tax).
Residents of a given county are charged based on the band into which their house falls – with the more expensive or valuable properties paying a larger amount.
The average council tax bill is usually expressed as the value a Band D property would pay – but the number of Band D properties in each local area can vary dramatically.
The money is split between different public services delivered by county, district and town or parish councils, along with police and fire services.
The money is used to fund everything from adult social care and children's services to new litter bins and benches in your towns and villages, depending on the authority in question.
In some cases multiple councils will pool their budgets and work together – such as on waste collection, through the Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP), or flood prevention through the Somerset Rivers Authority (SRA).
Council tax is the largest single source of income for most councils, with their other funding coming from central government grants, commercial investments, fees for planning or licensing applications, or businesses which they run.
How is my council tax divided up?
When you receive your council tax bill in early-March, it will be split into several distinct sections.
The largest slice will go to Somerset County Council, which provides children's services and adult social care as well as ensuring new schools and roads can be delivered.
This authority's portion will show up as two sections – the main precept (which can be spent on anything) and the adult social care precept (which is ring-fenced).
There will also be a portion allocated for your district council, which handles environmental health, planning applications, licensing and other matters.
Then there is your town or parish, which will receive a smaller amount to handle hyper-local services such as grass-cutting, benches, dog poo bins and the like.
There are also allocations to the fire authority (which runs your local fire stations) and Avon and Somerset Constabulary (ensuring your local police officers can be paid and run their stations).
Other local services, including the ambulance service, are funded directly by central government.
So, how much will I have to pay for the next year?
Each of the five Somerset councils intends to raise their Band D council tax rates by the maximum amount they are allowed to by law.
Under law, councils can raise their Band D council tax by up to 2.99 per cent or £5, whichever is higher, without having to go to a referendum.
Somerset County Council intends to raise its Band D bills by 1.99 per cent with a further three per cent rise for adult social care.
This will bring the total rise to 4.99 per cent, or £64.33 – with the total Band D bill being £1,353.53 for 2021/22.
As part of its budget – which will be debated in full on Wednesday (February 17) – the council is promising more than £10 million extra for adult social care, nearly £9 million extra for children's services, and a new £10.8 million emergency fund to combat the impacts of the coronavirus.
All four district councils in Somerset will be implementing a £5 rise for their Band D properties, pending their approval of their budgets by the respective full councils before the end of this month.
For Mendip District Council – whose area includes Frome, Glastonbury, Shepton Mallet, Street and Wells – this represents a 3.1 per cent rise on the previous year, bringing the annual Band D bill to £166.61.
For Sedgemoor District Council – whose area includes Bridgwater, Burnham-on-Sea, Cheddar, Highbridge and North Petherton – this represents a 2.99 per cent rise on the previous year, bringing the annual Band D bill to £172.32.
For Somerset West and Taunton Council – whose area includes Minehead, Taunton, Watchet, Wellington and Wiveliscombe – this represents a 3.04 per cent rise on the previous year, bringing the annual Band D bill to £169.63.
For South Somerset District Council – whose area includes Chard, Crewkerne, Ilminster, Wincanton and Yeovil – this represents a 2.91 per cent rise on the previous year, bringing the annual Band D bill to £177.11.
As part of their precepts, each of the five councils will allocate a portion for the Somerset Rivers Authority, which receives a 'shadow precept' of around £2.9 million per year from the councils and the internal drainage boards.
Avon and Somerset Constabulary will bring its revised budget proposals before the police and crime panel on Friday (February 19) after the first budget, put forward by commissioner Sue Mountstevens, was vetoed by panel members on February 4.
Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service is set to rise its Band D rate at £90 representing a rise of 1.99 per cent on the previous year.
This proposal – which would give it a budget of just over £74 million – is due to be approved by the fire authority on February 19 at 10am.
How do I pay my council tax – and what happens if I can't?
Most council tax bills stagger the payments equally over ten months, with councils encouraging residents to set up direct debits where possible.
Some residents prefer to pay over 12 months instead – but you should call or email your district council as soon as possible if you wish to do this.
There are a number of discounts available, such as those for single-person households, students or disabled people – again, your district council will be able to advise if you are eligible.
If you are really struggling to pay your council tax bill due to financial difficulties (whether caused by the coronavirus or a different factor), you should contact your district council immediately.