Council tax up but do we want Internet TV?
HOUSEHOLDERS in Kent will see their council tax bills rise by nearly five per cent this year after Kent County Council voted through an above-inflation increase.
Councillors formally approved the 4.95 per cent increase as part of the county council’s spending plans for the year at a budget meeting last week.
It will push up bills for homes in Band D by about £45 to £964, a figure that excludes the amount charged by local district, borough and parish councils, the police and fire service. County Hall’s Conservative leaders defended their £1.5 billion budget, saying that it protected frontline services in the face of a government spending squeeze.
The budget includes around £30 million of savings.
Opposition parties accused the Conservatives of wasting money on unimportant activities and singled out a controversial plan for Kent TV, an Internet-based broadband television service which will cost taxpayers £800,000.
Unions also protested at proposed job cuts. Around 190 jobs are under threat and already 77 library staff have been issued with letters telling them that their jobs are at risk.
Council leader Paul Carter said KCC had been “short-changed by the Government” compared to Norfolk or Dorset. He acknowledged there would be job losses in what he termed a “managed staff reduction” which would take advantage of natural turnover to try to avoid compulsory redundancies. Despite this, he said, KCC was committed to “further improvements in services”.
The Labour party denounced the increase and put forward an alternative budget that would have seen bills increase by 3.6 per cent. Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy accused the Conservatives of “whingeing.”
“The decrease of 5.3 per cent in government grants the Tories claim is based on fantasy figures that do not compare like with like. The Tory whingeing is like a spoilt teenager who gets £10 a week pocket money while his mates get £12,” he said.
For the Liberal Democrats, leader Cllr Trudy Dean said that the budget was based on “an incomplete and misleading picture of government funding”, adding that KCC’s spending priorities were wrong.
KENT County Council has maintained its position as one of the best-performing authorities in the country, according to council league tables published last week. The county council was again awarded the highest fourstar rating on the basis of an assessment of its services by independent inspectors. Its ranking makes it one of the two best performing county councils in the country and in the top ten of all authorities. Conservative council leader Cllr Paul Carter said the rating was a “cause for celebration, particularly against a backdrop of a continuing funding squeeze on councils by central government. The publication of the league tables co-incided with KCC’s budget meeting on Thursday which was set to approve a 4.95 per cent increase in council tax bills and £30million savings. Mr Carter said: “This is a tremendous performance. A tribute to everyone who works for KCC who is willing to go that extra mile in providing value-for-money .” The league tables are compiled by the Audit Commission and assess individual services, value for money and customer satisfaction.