Sunday, 20 August 2017

Council tax increase approved

COUNCIL taxpayers in Henley are to pay more for the services provided by the town council.

COUNCIL taxpayers in Henley are to pay more for the services provided by the town council.

Councillors confirmed a rise of 2.2 per cent at a meeting last week.

This means that from April 1, a typical band D householder would pay £87 a year, a rise of £1.86, for that part of their bill.

The rise was debated at a meeting of the council’s finance strategy and management committee.

Councillor Will Hamilton said he was “surprised” at the proposal and suggested freezing the tax for a year.

“I would have started with a different approach by looking at how we can save £35,000,” he said.

“We put up the precept last year and it doesn’t need to go up again. Why don’t we start by trying to cut back on areas where we think we could cut? Perhaps we can ask the chairmen [of the committees] where they can save £10,000 from their budgets.”

Councillor Jeni Wood, who chairs the recreation and amenities committee, said: “I think any chairman could cut their budget by doing absolutely nothing and that is what happened in this town at one time and residents didn’t like it as they voted out that council.

“We have to put things in the budget that need improvement. People don’t want to live with any old thing. We have a reputation.

“One thing we may need more money for is the toilets in Mill Meadows, although we are not saying we have got this money so we will spend it.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith said that while he had no issue with raising council tax he did not want to spend the council’s surplus reserves.

“I always believe that reserves should be used for capital expenditure, not for revenue to balance a revenue budget,” he said.

Councillor Elizabeth Hodgkin said the tax bill still represented “very good value” because the council supported charities and organisations such as the Henley Youth Centre.

Cllr Gawrysiak said that Henley’s charge would still be the cheapest in South Oxfordshire. Taxpayers in Wallingford paid £98.53 a year for their town council’s services while in Didcot the figure was £100.16 and in Thame it was £119.89.

The Mayor added: “This council should be congratulated for giving brilliant value to the residents of Henley in having a precept that is £11 cheaper than our nearest one.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the finance committee, told the council: “In 2006, we had £3.3 million in reserve and it is now £4.8 million. Spending revenue is not cheating, it is perfectly proper and the right thing to do.

“We have improved services as as well as our investments and kept our council tax charge low. We have achieved what looks like a miracle.”

Meanwhile, the council has put £17,200 into its budget to cover pensions contributions for its staff.

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