RATE capping is the ultimate sanction if local authorities don’t make efficiency savings to absorb extra costs of services that are being passed on from central government.
But Infrastructure Minister David Cretney MHK insisted any extra costs resulting from the phased withdrawal of the government’s waste disposal subsidy was not as onerous as has been made out.
His comments came as Douglas Council set a 2.1 per cent increase in rates with town hall leader David Christian saying the increase could have been much higher if £371,330 in savings had not been made to offset a 64 per cent increase in gate fee charges levied on domestic and commercial waste disposal.
That increase will add £297,000 to the existing £467,000 to the rate borne budget - while further annual increases over the next five years will reach what Councillor Christian said was an ‘alarming total rate borne cost of at least £2,147,660 for 2018-19, a whopping 360 per cent increase.’
Mr Christian said the council’s message to central government was authority for authorities. ‘Don’t just pass on the costs. Give us full and absolute authority so we can deliver a full service to our customers and create a more streamlined and cost-effective system of local government.’
But Mr Cretney insisted the withdrawal of the waste disposal subsidy would add just £20 to £22 per household on to the rates this year. And he said: ‘If local authorities work together they should be able to manage their costs. Just as government has to be more efficient than it was previously, local authorities have to be as well. There are significant efficiency savings that can be achieved by better working together in waste disposal but other areas as well.’
Mr Cretney described rate capping as the ‘ultimate sanction’ but did not believe it would need to be employed if local authorities did work together to make savings and cut costs.
He said the fact local authorities had managed to contain rate increases this year indicated they had been able to accommodate cost increases that were not as onerous as some had made out.
‘There has been all sorts of scaremongering as to how much this was going to cost the ratepayer. We worked out it will cost between £20 and £22 per household per year at the moment.
‘The impetus is on local authorities to make sure they look for all efficiency savings to ensure things are done in a more cost effective way. Waste disposal is their responsibility. Yes politicians have been reluctant to grasp the nettle and pass the costs to those who should be responsible for them.’
He said he agreed with Mr Christian’s sentiments about authority for authorities. ‘It’s tied up with local authority reform. Government will work with them so they have a proper structure with proper functions,’ he said.