Questions raised over plans for ‘prudent' council tax rise
Council leaders says budget settlement will place authority ‘in a strong financial position’
Independent councillor for Great Missenden, Seb Berry, was the only one who did not vote in favour at a council meeting on Wednesday (February 24).
Mr Berry said: “Just a few weeks ago, the main scrutiny committee of the council was told that a 1.9% increase was needed, not for front-line services next year, but to raise an additional £200,000 per year for future capital spending. Since that recommendation was debated in committee, the Government has confirmed a more generous final funding settlement for Chiltern than had previously been assumed and which could not have been known at the time we debated the budget in committee.
“This amounts to a net funding improvement for Chiltern of nearly £900,000 over three years on their original proposal. In these circumstances, most council taxpayers will find it odd that despite that positive outcome they are now asked to pay an increase of 3%, the new maximum possible without triggering a referendum, rather than the original 1.9% proposal.
“It was surprising that no-one on the Conservative benches raised this issue at the full council meeting.”
The rise equates to 10p per week for a Band D property, and comes as local authorities make moves towards independence from central government by 2019/20.
By then the council will have to be financially independent but will also be required to contribute to the national purse to help less affluent local authorities. Chiltern’s cabinet has also scrutinised all service budgets, an exercise led by deputy leader Mike Stannard.
The 2016/17 budget will also allow capacity for new projects and includes the continued joint working programme with SBDC.
Work to secure the best mitigation possible with HS2 will continue, as will development on the joint Local Plan with SBDC.
Council leader Isobel Darby said: “We have successfully placed ourselves in a strong financial position, thanks to looking ahead, anticipating the challenges coming our way and acting to mitigate against them.
“I am pleased that we, with others, were able to convince the government to soften the financial reductions facing us over the next three years but we know real challenges still lie ahead. A prudent £5 increase today will help us prepare for those times and reduce the impact later on.”