COUN­CIL AP­PROVES MAX­I­MUM TAX HIKE

‘Gov­ern­ment is ef­fec­tively tak­ing away our own lo­cal coun­cil re­sources’

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - by IS­ABEL DOBIN­SON is­abel.dobin­son@trin­i­tymir­ror.com Twit­ter: @is­abel_­dobin­son

COUN­CIL tax is set to go up an­other 5.99% this year, as Buck­ing­hamshire County Coun­cil (BCC) cab­i­net mem­bers ap­proved the max­i­mum coun­cil tax rise.

Speak­ing on Mon­day (Fe­bru­ary 12), BCC leader, Coun­cil­lor Martin Tett, said he took “ab­so­lutely no plea­sure” in propos­ing the hike and added that the coun­cil’s “fi­nances do not al­low us to do any­thing other than that.”

It was con­firmed that 3% of the in­crease will go to­wards the county’s adult so­cial care ser­vices – a bud­get un­der “in­tense pres­sure” and has a fore­cast over­spend of £4.4 bil­lion, said Cllr Tett.

He said: “We are now in the 10th year since we had the eco­nomic crash in 2008. We have had a pe­riod of aus­ter­ity for cen­tral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment since 2010.

“Times re­main very tough, frankly for lo­cal gov­ern­ment. We are fac­ing re­newed pres­sure far beyond what I think we orig­i­nally bud­geted for back in Fe­bru­ary last year, par­tic­u­larly in adults’s and chil­dren’s ser­vices.

“Life is very tough for coun­cils such as our­selves to man­age de­mand-led ser­vices... Adult so­cial care isn’t just the el­derly, there is also a lot of adults in all as­pects of life who are vul­ner­a­ble.

“These pres­sures are very in­tense, ex­pen­sive and in some as­pects, out of our con­trol but we have to pro­vide the best we can for them.”

Cllr Tett de­scribed the con­sid­er­able re­duc­tion in gov­ern­ment fund­ing which has now di­min­ished to “noth­ing”.

He said: “We are one of the first coun­cils in the coun­try to lose all of our rev­enue sup­port grant. Our­selves and Dorset will from next year not re­ceive any rev­enue sup­port grant... this is the money we get from cen­tral gov­ern­ment to­wards the pro­vi­sion of lo­cal ser­vices.

“We’ll re­ceive no money what­soev- er from cen­tral gov­ern­ment. It’s a re­ally though chal­lenge, not many years ago it was some­thing like £60 mil­lion, now it’s noth­ing.”

Cllr Tett ex­plained that BCC is now in “neg­a­tives” and ar­gued the gov­ern­ment “is ef­fec­tively tak­ing away our own lo­cal coun­cil re­sources.

“It is go­ing to send coun­cils such as our­selves, pos­si­bly, over a cliff edge. I des­per­ately hope cen­tral gov­ern­ment is lis­ten­ing.”

He con­tin­ued: “It is im­por­tant for

res­i­dents to un­der­stand that I take ab­so­lutely no plea­sure what­so­ever in in­creas­ing coun­cil tax.

“What I am very well aware of is the acute pres­sure on us as a lo­cal coun­cil... these are na­tional pres­sures.

“Any­one who fol­lows the BBC will know that a neigh­bour­ing coun­cil of ours, Northamp­ton­shire is vir­tu­ally, I will avoid us­ing the term bank­rupt...

“I know that talk­ing to its leader, adult so­cial care and chil­dren’s ser­vices are very sim­i­lar to us.”

Cllr Tett, con­cluded: “For 2018/2019, we are very re­luc­tantly propos­ing an in­crease in coun­cil tax of 5.99% and I re­ally wish that wasn’t the case but our fi­nances do not al­low us to do any­thing other than that.”

Cllr Paul Ir­win, added: “We all think about when in our lives we will be­come el­derly and it is so im­por­tant... re­luc­tantly I think there is no choice.

The pro­posed coun­cil tax in­crease, which equates to an ad­di­tional £12 a year will rec­om­mended for ap­proval by full coun­cil on Thurs­day, Fe­bru­ary 22.

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