8th Dec, 2016

Council tax payers set for big hike as district looks to cut costs

Stratford Editorial 12th Jan, 2016 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

COUNCIL tax payers in Stratford district face having to dig deep this year.

Stratford District Council is looking to increase its portion of the bill – which amounts to around a tenth of the total – by 3.9 per cent from April, and two per cent each following year.

Warwickshire County Council – which accounts for the lion’s share of the total bill at around 80 per cent – is also expected to agree a hike of nearly four per cent, which includes a two per cent adult social care levy, while Warwickshire Police which accounts for the other tenth of the total, is set to go for a 1.99 per cent rise.

Overall it would mean council tax payers facing around a 3.5 per cent rise in their annual bill.

The district council’s draft budget proposals will be considered at a meeting of the ruling Cabinet on Monday (January 18). Once endorsed they will be subject to a public consultation, before final decisions are made by Full Council at the end of February.

The government recently published the provisional local government finance settlement which identified the level of support for every council for each of the next four years. For Stratford the level of Revenue Support Grant will reduce from £1.9million in the current year to zero by 2019/20.

Although income from business rates is expected to increase, other areas of financing such as new homes bonus are also reducing over the same period.

Coun Chris Saint, leader of the council’s Conservative administration, said: “These are extremely challenging times for local authorities.

“In response to these reductions in funding, the budget proposals include the requirement to undertake a fundamental review of all of the activities of the council. This will be a considered programme that will question what services the council can maintain in the future and how these services will be delivered.

“The purpose of the review will be to ensure that the council can remain sustainable in light of reduced resources. It is proposed that the review will commence in April – the initial target of budget reductions arising from this review will be £250,000 in 2017/18 increasing to £1million by 2020/21.”

But opposition Liberal Democrats on the council have hit at the proposals and accused the Tory administration of a U-turn on a manifesto pledge before last May’s council elections not to increase council tax.

Lib-Dem spokesman Peter Moorse said: “It’s breathtaking cynicism by the local Tories. Just before the election they froze the council tax and promised no increase for four year in their manifesto.

“Now we learn that they plan to increase council tax by 3.9 per cent, despite an increase in government funding for the council. Residents will feel cheated – and rightly so.”

The Lib Dems argue even with the cut in the Revenue Support grant, the council is still receiving over £91,000 more in government support via other grants.