DORSET Council’s £313million budget proposal, which includes an increase in council tax and a pay freeze for employees, goes to cabinet next week for approval.

The 2021/22 budget, an increase of around £9 million compared to last year, is needed, Dorset Council says, to fund the costs of responding to the coronavirus pandemic. Council bosses also say the increase, from £304million in 2020/21, is required to meet inflation and the growing need for social care within the Dorset population.

Council tax will be increased by under two per cent, should the proposals be agreed, with a three per cent levy on adult social care.

This equates to an extra £1.62 a week for a Band D property, the council says.

Dorset Council finance member Cllr Gary Suttle said: "It has been particularly challenging developing the budget for next financial year, 2021/22, due to the high level of uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic.

"Covid has had a massive impact on our communities and our budget this year and this is likely to continue over the coming months.

"We have developed proposals which will deliver a balanced budget.

"But it has not been easy and it is with a heavy heart that we have had to include proposals for a council tax increase."

The budget proposals for 2021/22 also include an assumption of a zero per cent pay award for council staff.

Last year's Chancellor’s Spending Review announced that public sector pay would be 'paused'.

Dorset Council officials say that while central government has no formal role in deciding local government pay, which is negotiated nationally by employers with trade unions, it is likely that local government pay will follow suit.

Meanwhile, Cllr Suttle said: "We understand that many residents and local businesses have been hit financially by the pandemic, and there will be support available for the hardest hit.

"The budget assumption of a pay freeze for staff is also made with a heavy heart when we are keenly aware how hard staff have worked for many months.

“These are tough choices, but we have to find ways to fund the support for communities through the pandemic and the ever-growing need among our residents for social care services.

"We continue to lobby the government for further funding.

"And we will endeavour to protect the vital council services on which so many residents rely."

The budget for the financial year 2021/22 goes to cabinet on Tuesday, January 19 for approval.