THE maximum council tax increase possible, without holding a referendum, is expected to be agreed for Dorset residents.

Tory members on the Dorset Council Cabinet are expected to rubber-stamp the proposed above inflation increase on Tuesday (28th).

The rise, just a fraction under 4per cent, will push thousands of household annual bills to over £2,000 for the first time. Other authorities, including the police, fire & rescue, and town and parish councils will increase bills even more.

Half of the Dorset Council increase (2%) will put additional funding into social care after a year of multi-million pound budget over-runs – but even these crucial departments will still be facing ‘efficiency’ savings in the year ahead.

The council say that had there not been reorganisation a year ago to create the new authority, scrapping district and borough councils and losing hundreds of jobs in the process, the financial situation would have been worse.

Partially because the levels of demand for social care cannot be accurately predicted the council admits that this budget is high risk. It also says there is likely to be a £40million shortfall in its medium term financial plan in coming years.

Said a report from corporate director of finance Jim McManus: “Significant additional resources have been incorporated into the budgets for services being delivered to Dorset Council’s residents. However, the unpredictability and volatility of demand and the price sensitivity of some of the complex services provided means that the budget can be significantly impacted by small changes to (for example) the numbers of looked-after-children or the numbers of adults needing support to live well at home. The short-term nature of the Spending Review, the local government finance settlement and continuing uncertainty around the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union mean there is significant risk to the council’s budget.”

Budget increases of £10.2m, from £63.7m to £73.9m, are planned for children’s services, but the department will still be expected to make efficiency savings of £1.6m in the year. The biggest department budget of all, for adult services, will rise by £11.7m, from £111.2m to £122.9m, with cost reductions of more than £1.2m targeted.

If approved the new Dorset Council share of council tax from April will range from £1,130 a year for band A homes to £3,390 for band H. For the most common band D and E homes the Dorset Council share will be £1,695 and £2,072.

Other changes being considered by Tuesday’s Cabinet include increasing ‘premium’ charges on empty properties. This is currently set at 100per cent of the normal council tax rate for homes which have been empty for two years this could rise to 200% per cent once a home has been empty for five years and 300% for homes empty for ten years or more. Less than 300 homes currently pay at premium rates in the Dorset Council area.