…while KCC looks for 2% raise in payments
firstname.lastname@example.org Council taxpayers are set to pay more for less as Kent County Council confirmed it will increase the council tax for the first time in three years by just under 2%.
The council’s Conservative administration says the hike will help cushion the impact of an £81m savings package but has been criticised by opposition parties.
The proposed 1.9% increase will see bills rise by about £20 from £1,047 to £1,068 for households in Band D homes and a rise of £18.46 for people in Band C homes to £949.92.
County Hall finance chiefs say the increase, which will generate an extra £10m, could be lower if the government decides the trigger point for a referendum on council tax hikes should be lower.
Currently, the threshold set by the government for a vote is 2% but there is speculation it could be brought down to 1.5%.
KCC said if that happened, it would bring the increase down because the costs of staging a referendum would offset any savings.
Cllr John Simmonds (Con), KCC cabinet member for finance, said he felt the public understood the difficulties facing councils.
“I think people will live with it. Had we increased rather than frozen bills in the last three years, it might be a different ball game. If you look at the pressure we are under, it is just not possible to do it without increasing bills.”
Over the next three years, KCC will have to save £270m and says many more services will be outsourced. UKIP opposition group leader Cllr Roger Latchford said his party opposed any tax increases in principle.
“If the increase is absolutely vital to balance the budget, we will look at it. The consultation did show the public would support a modest increase rather than cuts in services.”
Labour said it would assess the spending plans carefully and did not rule out supporting the increase.
Labour group leader Cllr Gordon Cowan said: “Such draconian cutbacks as these can only mean that some services will have to go or be severely reduced. All the talk of service transformation by the Kent Tories cannot hide the fact children and youth centres have already closed and there is more to come.”
During a consultation on its spending plans, 23% of more than 3,000 respondents said there should be no increase in the council tax while 30% said they would accept an increase of less than 2%.
The Conservative cabinet will meet this week (22) to sign off the budget proposals for 2014-15. A final decision will be made in February.
A number of district and borough councils have already signalled that they will also raise the council tax this year – most under 2%.
OPPOSED: Cllr Roger Latchford
PRESSURE: Cllr John Simmonds