Tax­pay­ers braced to pay more

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Council Taxes To Rise - By Ai­dan Bar­low

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

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