September 28th, 2016

Council defend small rise in tax

Updated: 10:16 am, May 07, 2015

LABOUR have hit out at claims they are hurting hard-working families by putting up council tax, saying 8p a week is a ‘small increase’ to balance the budget.

Coun Juliet Brunner, leader of the Conservative Group on Redditch Borough Council, criticised the decision to increase the authority’s part of the tax by 1.9 per cent.

It means the average bill for a Band D home from April will be £1,559.38 a year – or £1,582.24 for those living within Feckenham – of which £217.21 and £240.07 respectively goes to the borough council.

Worcestershire County Council, the police and fire authorities have all increased their parts of the bill by just under two per cent resulting in an average overall rise of about £30.

The Government had offered a grant equivalent to a one per cent rise to encourage councils to freeze bills. But officers rejected the idea as the money is a one-off payment, meaning the authority would have to find another £101,000 in savings in future years.

But Coun Brunner said they should have taken the opportunity to help hard working families by keeping bills down.

However Coun Mark Shurmer said it was a ‘very small increase’ of about 8p per week per household which would help balance the budget.

Other Labour councillors pointed out the Conservative controlled Worcestershire County Council had also increased their council tax levels for 2015.

The ruling Labour group also rejected a recommendation to reverse the decision to put almost £40,000 of money not claimed by voluntary and community groups into their balances or savings.

Coun Brunner said four voluntary groups had contacted her to say they had wanted money but had encountered difficulty applying.

“How are you going to look the voluntary sector in the face and say ‘you’re doing a wonderful job and by the way we’re cutting your funding’.”

But Deputy council leader Greg Chance rejected claims they were cutting funding for the voluntary sector as the overall funding available to groups would remain the same in future years.

“The process this year was run fully and properly according with policy and procedures.” he said.

“There weren’t enough eligible applications for us to allocate that money. We have made the tough decision rather than rush to allocate that money we put it back into balances.”