Taxpayers braced to pay more
Ashford’s councillors will vote on plans to make taxpayers cough up an extra £4.55 next year after being given special permission to do so by the Chancellor George Osborne.
According to government rules councils must host a referendum if they wish to raise tax further beyond a threshold of 2% every year. But this year the Chancellor has given a dispensation to the most economical authorities to go beyond the threshold and claw back more revenue.
Ashford is among the top 50 local authorities in the country and has the lowest rates in Kent, which meant it could levy up to £5 a year more from band D property owners.
After a discussion by the council’s cabinet last week, it was proposed that Ashford would seek to claim a further £4.55 next year, taking the average council tax bill up to £150.
ABC leader Gerry Clarkson said: “It is welcome news that government has recognised and responded so positively to the difficulties that low council tax based authorities are experiencing.
“Our aim is always to keep council tax as low as possible and we are proud to offer the lowest council tax in Kent to our residents.
“If agreed by full council, this small rise, equating to around 9p per week, would enable us to partly address the reduction in grant funding from central government.”
He reiterated the Conservatives’ local manifesto commitment to keeping Ashford’s council tax as the lowest in Kent, and in the long term to even try to reduce council tax by finding new ways to generate income.
Stanhope Cllr Brendan Chilton (Lab) said that the Labour group supports the budget being set out locally by the Conservatives.
But he said: “The policy is taking money from the local authorities which have suffered the greatest cuts and giving it to those which have had the least amount of cuts.
“It is a ruse by the government to damage to largely urban areas and cities of this country.
“We are concerned about the cuts coming from central government and the effect it has on the long term sustainability for councils.”
The ABC increase is set to be approved by a meeting of the full council tonight (Thursday) at 7pm.
Ashford Council leader Cllr Gerry Clarkson