DUDLEY residents face paying higher rents as well as council tax after councillors approved the 2024 budget.

Conservative-run Dudley Council gave the budget the go-ahead on Monday March 4 after councillors were told the authority faces a deficit of £5.5m.

The black hole will be filled from reserves and the position would have been much worse if £15.6m in savings had not already been identified.

The council’s financial problems stem from cuts in government funding, unexpected costs in social care, historically low council tax and low levels of reserves.

Despite the changes for the 2024/25 financial year, Dudley is not out of the woods, the council’s chief accountant warned there was still a risk of running out of cash and having to declare effective bankruptcy.

These are the major increases and cuts in Dudley’s 2024 budget.

Council tax – Dudley has increased council tax by five per cent – the maximum it is allowed without permission from the government. The rise means the total for a Band D property will be £1937.46.

Council rent – Dudley’s housing budget is ring-fenced but still in trouble with a £3.8m deficit, to combat this residents will cop for a 7.7 per cent increase pushing the weekly cost up to £96.21.

Service charges – Council tenants in buildings with communal areas will see an increase in service charges from £5.20 per week to an average of £11.54.

Green waste – The council aims to generate £1.4m per year by introducing a £36 charge for collecting green waste in a fortnightly service all year round.

Empty homes – Unoccupied and unfurnished homes that have been empty for between one and five years will be subject to a 100 per cent council tax premium, meaning owners would pay double.  Homes which have stood empty but furnished for more than a year will also be subject to double council tax.

Adult social care – The council’s biggest spending department will need to find £6.7m in savings which will include £460,000 with the closure of the Unicorn Centre in Stourbridge.

Children’s services – Cuts of £1.8m will come from changes including £540,000 in family safeguarding.

Chief executive – £430,000 in cuts to back office functions and publication of Your Borough Your Home magazine must be found. The removal of a strategic contingency fund will make up almost half of the total.

Health and wellbeing – One of the most controversial cuts this year is removing £240,000 per year for small grants at community forum meetings. Cutting the grant funding will help save £370,000 in this category.

Environment – £4.2m in savings is needed, some of the cash will come from cuts to household waste recycling centre opening hours and a revamp of street cleaning and grounds maintenance. 

Regeneration and enterprise – Savings of £1.2m will come mostly from £900,000 being cut in a review of school catering.