After the local elections and the tax rebate that’s hitting bank accounts across the country, a lot of people are wondering what the council actually does with all that money you pay them.
For many households, council tax is the most expensive monthly bill, second only to rent or mortgage payments. So it stands to reason that you’d want to know how that cash is being spent.
Every council uses its money differently, so we won’t be able to give you the exact figures. If you want a more detailed breakdown for your specific area, head to your local council’s website. Differences might be based on the specific needs of people in your area, as well as the properties of local councillors. However, most councils will follow the same broad spending patterns. So let’s take a look at the biggest and most important costs…
In 2020, it was estimated that 57p out of every £1 was spent on social care – so almost 60% of council tax spending. This doesn’t include health services, but may mean things like adult day care services and home care visits for elderly people and those living with disabilities. For many areas, the combined costs of children and adults’ social care will be by far the biggest annual expense.
The other big area of spending, it’s no surprise that councils are investing as much money as possible into their schools and colleges. Based on recent figures, 30-40% of a council’s money (including additional sources of income as well as council tax) goes towards education. And while this may seem unfair to those who don’t have kids in school or plans to take up adult learning, it’s worth remembering that good schools can help a community in lots of different ways. Improving learning for young people in your area can have a knock on effect on everything from health to crime levels.
A lot of the services that we rely on to keep life ticking along smoothly are also made possible thanks to council tax. That includes essential services such as police and the fire brigade, as well as rubbish collection and highway maintenance. Aside from paying people to deliver these services, councils will also use their money to find projects that look at ways to improve them – from improving recycling to better integrating policing into the community.
Public services also include efforts to enrich an area with arts and culture – particularly libraries, which can be an important hub for accessing services as well as a place to borrow books and media.
Your council tax
The amount you pay will vary a lot depending on where you live and the type of property you live in. It’s really important to prioritise council tax over other types of bill, as unlike other types of debt, unpaid tax can lead to criminal charges. If you live alone, are a student, or have a low income then you may be able to get a reduction; contact your council to see if this is possible or to let them know if you’re struggling to make a payment.