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Kitcat’s 5.9% council tax rise: full story
Green councillors say only a 5.9% council tax rise next spring will allow the council to meet a £25 million “funding shortfall”.
Council leader Jason Kitcat said the rise is necessary because the council is facing an “unprecedented position” with the worst year of Government cuts set to push the council to “breaking point”.
But opposition councillors have questioned the need and public appetite for such a rise and appear set to block the move.
The proposed rise is above the Government’s 1.99% threshold and would have to be agreed by a public referendum to be held on the same day as elections next May.
The Green party’s proposal for a 4.75% increase at this year’s budget was rejected by opposition councillors and a 1.99% compromise was eventually reached.
Conservative leader Geoffrey Theobald said the Greens had not learnt from the “fiasco” of this year’s budget and the council could still make savings without cutting services.
A similar stalemate now seems inevitable with all three parties differing on the financial way forward.
Green councillors said that combined Government cuts of £18 million and growing pressure on services means the council faces a budget shortfall of up to £25 million in 2015/16.
The figure is more than the council currently spends on libraries, homelessness, parks, youth services, sports facilities and development and environmental health combined.
They warn that the shortfall will rise to almost £70 million by 2019/20 – almost a tenth of the council’s entire annual budget.
The 5.9% increase is projected to bring in an extra £6 million and would see band D householders paying an £1.48 extra per week.
Coun Kitcat said: “This coming year we face the biggest cuts to the council budget so far in this Government’s relentless austerity programme.
“We are committed to delivering essential public services for our citizens but to do this we do need to raise council tax to ensure those services can keep going as demand continues to grow while budgets shrink.”
Labour leader Warren Morgan said: “Our position will remain the same, we do not believe that the financial impact of millions of pounds in cuts to local services by the Conservative-led Government should be passed on to residents by the Green-led council.
“We are doing all we can through measures like our Fairness Commission to help residents who are falling increasingly into debt and poverty, we will not let the Greens push them further down that route with massive tax increases.”
Coun Theobald said there was “no need” for such a rise.
He said: “Last year’s Budget was actually underspent by over £1 million and independent auditors and peer reviewers have both said that there is plenty more scope for making savings without having to cut services.
“I appeal to the Labour Group to join with us in blocking this ridiculously large rise.”