COUNCIL tax in Dudley is predicted to rise by nearly three percent next year but still won’t be enough to avoid another round of cuts in services, councillors have been warned.

The grim prediction came in a report to the borough’s  Audit and Standards Committee on July 29.

Council chiefs are hoping they can protect front-line services by making internal savings. 

The proposed rise of 2.99 percent would see band D homes’ council tax increasing by £46 to £1587.84 a year.

Council officers have predicted its spending next year for all services  – with the exception of housing – will be £243.7 million compared to an expected income of  £234 million – a shortfall of over £9 million which will be made up by cash from reserves. 

However officers have warned: “Based on the forecasts, pressures and savings proposals set out above, we are forecasting deficits in all future years.

“While these deficits can be met from reserves over the next few years, this is unsustainable in the longer term. There is therefore a need to identify further savings and/or additional income in order to ensure that prudent balances are maintained.”

Cllr Steve Clark, cabinet member for finance and legal services, has said the council faces a tough year but he was absolutely confident it would deliver a balanced budget.

He added the authority was already making savings through a new procurement unit which has helped reduce the cost of contracts and supplies while changes to a voluntary redundancy scheme had lead to smaller payouts to departing staff.

“We are still having to tighten our belts and I do believe that council tax will have to go up by 2.99 percent in order that we do set a legal budget,” he said.

“However, it isn’t easy doing that.

“The savings will be more internal efficiencies rather than having to close libraries and museums.”

He added:  “We have stopped a lot of outside consultants coming in and effectively draining our budget and our officers have stepped up to the mark and are working hard to ensue they are doing the job well.”