West Midlands Mayor Andy Street’s plan for a £10-a-year precept to council tax bills is set to be scrapped for at least a year.
Local council leaders and the mayor will consider a proposal on Friday to “defer” the precept, so that it’s not included in this year’s council tax bills.
It follows objections from Labour council leaders, who said West Midlands council tax bills are already set to rise significantly.
But they insist they are still determined to work constructively with Mr Street, the region’s Conservative mayor who was elected last year.
We revealed in January that Mr Street wanted to impose a £12 precept on council tax bills going out later this year. This was later reduced to £10.80 for a band D home, raising around £6 million.
The charge would have been added to council tax bills across the region served by the mayor, which includes Birmingham, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Solihull and Walsall.
But the proposal was blocked by the Board of the West Midlands Combined Authority, which is chaired by Mr Street and includes the leaders of the seven local councils.
A paper to be considered by the Board at a meeting on Friday February 9 reveals that Mr Street and the council leaders have agreed “a proposed deferral of the 2018/19 Precept to 2019/20 subject to further work in 2018/19 and final approval at the February 2019 West Midlands Combined Authority Board.”
It means the precept planned for the 2018-19 financial year, which begins in April, will now be delayed until 12 months later.
The paper adds: “This approach is supported by the Mayor and the all Constituent Authorities.”
It also says that some of the money the precept would have raised for public transport schemes will be provided by local councils, who will give the mayor’s office an extra £572,000 between them.
And the mayor will cut his office costs by £65,000.
Mr Street’s staff point out that no firm decision will be made about whether to delay the precept until Friday’s Board meeting. The Mayor is not issuing any statement before that.
Birmingham City Council says it continues to work closely and have a good relationship with the mayor, and along with other local authorities it was concerned about the impact on residents of increases in council tax.
Birmingham is consulting about plans to increase council tax by almost five per cent, including a ring-fenced increase for social care, adding £71.90 a year to the bill for a band D home.
And after the consultation was launched, the Government raised the maximum increase councils can impose without requiring a referendum to almost six per cent – which means bills could increase further.
On top of that, West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson has launched his own consultation about increasing the police precept, which is added to council tax bills, by £12.
There will also be a small increase, possibly around £1 a year, from the fire authority.
It means that bills for a band D home are likely to increase by at least £85 a year in total even without the mayor’s precept.