DEVON County Council will accept the Government‘s offer to increase council tax by two per cent to help pay for adult social care.
The ruling cabinet agreed to accept the offer, which will raise just under £6.5-million extra this year to support Devon’s elderly and vulnerable adults.
Councillors heard it would help pay for the Government’s increase in the minimum wage — which will cost Devon over £7-million more in care costs.
The two per cent council tax increase will be on top of any rise in the rate for general services — this will be decided at the annual budget meeting next month.
The Government has set a ceiling of 1.99 per cent for general council tax before a referendum has to be held.
Mary Davis, county treasurer, told the cabinet meeting: “It is estimated that in 2016/17, the council will raise just under £6.5 -million from a two per cent rise in the precept.
“Next year the cost of the national living wage will be over £7-million. The majority of this cost relates to those who care for vulnerable adults.
“An increase in the precept will help the council deal with the funding pressures linked to an ageing population.”
The cabinet saw cross-party support for the move. The deputy leader of Devon’s opposition, Liberal Democrat Julian Brazil, said he supported the increase in council tax to help fund adult social care and that it would be ‘immoral not to’.
The council’s Conservative leader John Hart said: “This has been a difficult decision to take.
“We are well aware that many people in Devon are living on fixed incomes or low wages and any increase in their living costs is unwelcome.
“But the rise in the minimum wage will boost incomes — especially for many of our care staff who do an absolutely vital job looking after our elderly and vulnerable adults.
“George Osborne offered all upper tier councils the opportunity to earmark an increase in council tax especially for adult care in his autumn statement last year.
“At the same time our Government grant was reduced again and without taking advantage of this offer, we would have to make even more severe cuts than we will be considering in the budget next month.”
The increase in Devon’s council tax will cost the average Band D householder an estimated £11.61 extra per year.