TRAFFORD Council’s budget proposals for the next five years have cleared the first hurdle after being approved by the town hall executive.

Council tax is set to rise next year by 3.99 per cent – made up of a 2 per cent adult social care precept and a 1.99 per cent general increase – to plug sizeable budget gaps.

It means someone living in a band C property in Trafford will see their council tax bill rise from £1,528.95 to £1,589.96 a year.

The value of the overall draft budget for the 2022/23 financial year is higher than this year’s – from £179.47 million to £193.44 million.

There is a massive predicted budget gap over the next five years of £61.51 million – made up of £54.41 million of ‘business as usual’ council spending and funding pressures and £7.10 million of Covid-19 pressures.

And there is an in-year budget gap for the 2022/23 financial year of £21.75 million.

The council’s finance team has found solutions to reduce the in-year gap by £17.1 million by finding additional funding; use of council savings; and new savings and income generation – but this still leaves a gap of £4.65 million to fill next year.

Over the next five years, up to 2027, the council expects budget gaps of £4.65 million in 2022/23, £10.95 million in 2023/24, £3.92 million in 2024/25, £3.27 million in 2025/26 and £2.26 million in 2026/27.

This is assuming that the pressures of Covid-19 on the council’s budget only continue into next year and not beyond.

Further discussions of how to close this remaining budget gap and take the pressure off the council’s finances will continue this year, with a final budget due to be presented to full council for approval in February 2022.

Council tax rises are expected to continue each year until 2027 at least, according to the council’s budget proposals report.

And to be on the safe side, the council’s finance team have not budgeted in for any dividend from Manchester Airport ‘for the foreseeable future’.

Introducing the budget proposals report, Cllr Tom Ross, executive member for finance, said: “The report details the key financial challenges and issues which will be faced by the council over the forecast period. Covid-19 has brought about significant change and it is imperative the council plays a key role in the lives of people as we move into a post-pandemic period.

“After over a decade of funding reductions which has seen a reduction of £15 billion in core local government funding, the next few years will still pose an extremely difficult financial challenge to the council.

“There is still a high level of uncertainty surrounding local government finance, both in terms of next year’s funding settlement and locally due to the uncertainty around the future of further business rates retention and fair funding reforms.”

The Government’s Spending Review, due later in October, will give more certainty to the council on how much money they will likely get allocated to them over the next few years.