Tax­pay­ers face ex­tra 1% added to their bills

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Front Page - By Paul Fran­cis Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor pfran­cis@thek­m­group.co.uk @Paulonpol­i­tics

Coun­cils in Kent will be able to in­crease their coun­cil tax bills by an ad­di­tional 1% next year, the gov­ern­ment has an­nounced.

There is cur­rently a cap on in­creases of just un­der 2% be­cause of the gov­ern­ment’s in­sis­tence that au­thor­i­ties who want to raise more must hold a ref­er­en­dum be­fore do­ing so.

But in a state­ment today, the Com­mu­ni­ties Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid has told MPS that coun­cils can choose to in­crease bills by another 1% with­out need­ing a pub­lic vote.

In the case of Kent County Coun­cil, that would al­low the author­ity to raise bills by just un­der 6% al­though it has al­ready said it had planned a 4% hike.

That fig­ure takes into ac­count the 2% in­crease per- mit­ted to help fund adult so­cial care on top of the gen­eral in­crease of 2%.

For the dis­tricts and bor­oughs, it gives them the op­tion of a 3% hike. The news is un­likely to go far enough for KCC. In Oc­to­ber, the Con­ser­va­tive leader Cllr Paul Carter said, cuts were an “in­evitable con­se­quence” if the gov­ern­ment failed to bail it out. It told the gov­ern­ment it needed an ad­di­tional £20m this year and the next to help cush­ion the im­pact on top of £64m sav­ings.

Mr Javid has also an­nounced that Kent and Med­way will be among a new group of coun­cils to trial a scheme in which they will be al­lowed to re­tain 100% of their busi­ness rates with­out hav­ing to hand over some of the money to cen­tral gov­ern­ment.

The minister said he had lis­tened to coun­cils’ con­cerns over an ef­fec­tive cap on the coun­cil tax, which ac­counts for about 25% of an author­ity’s over­all bud­get.

He said: “I am con­scious of calls for fur­ther flex­i­bil­ity in the set­ting of coun­cil tax. While we all want to ease grow­ing pres­sure on lo­cal gov­ern­ment ser­vices, I’m sure none of us want to see hard­work­ing tax­pay­ers sad­dled with ever-higher bills.”

“This set­tle­ment strikes a bal­ance be­tween those two aims, giv­ing coun­cils the abil­ity to in­crease their core Coun­cil Tax re­quire­ment by an ad­di­tional 1% with­out a lo­cal ref­er­en­dum, bring­ing the core prin­ci­ple in line with in­fla­tion.”

In other mea­sures, he said po­lice and crime com­mis­sion­ers would be per­mit­ted to add up to £12 on their part of the bill. Kent is among forces cur­rently al­lowed to add £5 on to av­er­age bills.

Cllr Paul Carter told the gov­ern­ment and Minister Sa­jid Javid, right, cuts at County Hall were in­evitable

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