THOUSANDS of low income households struggling to make ends meet will receive a council tax reduction this year despite an overall 3.9 per cent hike.

 

The figure, when broken down, includes 1.9 per cent to help fund general services – such as bin collections, roads and area councils – and 2 per cent which will be ring-fenced for adult social care.

 

The ruling Labour group’s budget, set to go before full council on February 27, promises to deliver ‘significant investments in issues which matter the most to residents’, according to Barnsley Council leader Sir Steve Houghton.

 

As part of the £20m investment, 12,000 households – including those who claim Universal Credit and have been struggling to pay council tax – will receive a reduction.

 

Key changes will also be made in the care sector from April – including a pay rise for workers from £8.20 to £9.72 an hour – which is an effort to retain staff. A training programme, dubbed Excellence In Care, will be adopted which has been designed to further careers in the industry and rid the sector of its high staff turnover rate.

 

“There are a lot of positives in this year’s budget but the thing I’m most proud of is helping those who need it the most,” Sir Steve added.

 

“Workers in the care sector work hard for low pay, providing a vital service, so it’s important they get a better deal. The pay rise and programme will hopefully encourage them to stay in the industry. We’re aware Universal Credit is a huge issue in Barnsley and a revamp of the benefit scheme is essential. It will depend on each household’s circumstances, but 12,000 who are struggling will benefit.”

 

A total of £3m will be spent on roads, £2m on children’s services, £1.5m on green spaces and there will be a £1.5m increase on the ongoing Principal Towns scheme which boosts the appearance of out-of-town shopping districts. A new footbridge at Penny Pie Park costing £1m, improvements on the Dearne Towns Link Road, a doubling of 21 ward alliances’ budgets to £20,000 each and a £1.5m package to repair flood-damaged gullies are also stand-out features of the budget.

 

Sir Steve added: “It’s the first time in ten years we’ve been able to put a lot of investment back in and that’s down to the council being well-managed financially. We’ve listened to what people have told us and subsequently we’ve come up with significant priorities going forward. We’ve got through extremely hard times, times of severe austerity and cuts, so now it’s about moving forward and putting money back in where it really matters.”