PLANS to raise council tax by 3.6 per cent and impose a £40 fee for collecting garden waste in Stratford District have been slammed by the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition.
It comes after the district was handed a larger than expected grant from central government for 2020/21 – £9.3million – £2.4m more than anticipated.
And the increase in charges by the Conservative-controlled authority in the wake of such a large settlement has led to a furious response from the Lib Dems.
“The council’s reserves are predicted to remain at over £9m for the next two years, despite its finance officers setting the minimum requirement at £3m,” said Lib Dem group leader Councillor Susan Juned.
“Why rush the £40 charge for green waste bin collection, put forward as a fund-raising exercise?
“Why take the decision to push up car parking charges so much?
“Why put council tax up by an inflation-beating 3.6 per cent when last year the rise – just before the council elections – was 1.5 per cent?
“We will continue to ask the Conservatives why they think residents’ money is better off in the council’s bank account rather than in the residents’ own accounts.”
In response, Coun Tony Jefferson, Leader of the authority said: “The £40 charge for green waste is not rushed; it has been carefully considered and is a strategic response to the financial position we are in.
“Charging for green waste will raise about £800,000 a year. We believe it is prudent to take this action now.
“Our Medium-Term Financial Plan through to 2024/25 shows our reserves declining from £12,566,000 to £3,097,000. The minimum level of reserves as specified by our head of finance is £2,500,000.
“The plan also shows that in 2024/25, even with the money raised through car parking charges, charging for green waste and increasing council tax by the maximum amount possible we still have a deficit of £3,235,000 in that year. In short, we will have to take further actions to increase revenues and reduce spending.
“The Liberal Democrats’ suggestion of deferring increases merely makes a challenging situation much more challenging still. Indeed, probably untenable.”