Ques­tions raised over plans for ‘pru­dent' coun­cil tax rise

Coun­cil lead­ers says bud­get set­tle­ment will place au­thor­ity ‘in a strong fi­nan­cial po­si­tion’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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.”

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