Sunday, 22 April 2018

Increase in tax attacked by Tories

PLANS by Henley Town Council to raise its share of council tax by seven per cent have been criticised by opposition members.

The ruling Henley Residents’ Group is proposing the increase to help offset a £37,000 deficit in the council’s operational budget for the year beginning on April 1.

An increase would mean an average band D household would pay £93.09 for services provided by the council, an increase of £6.09.

The council would raise £530,734 from the new precept, an extra £37,500 compared with this year.

Conservative councillor Will Hamilton said the council should be looking at ways to increase its revenue.

Speaking at a meeting of the finance strategy and management committee last week, he said: “We have a deficit of £37,000 in the budget and if we didn’t increase the precept it would be higher.”

Councillor David Nimmo Smith (Con) said: “I can’t support having a negative budget. If I ran my house that way I would go bankrupt. I work to the macabre view that if I get in £1 I spend 10s 6d.”

Town clerk Janet Wheeler told councillors: “Have you ever thought the council is trying to do too much with its revenue budget? There are a lot of projects and a lot of plans. Those ongoing projects make it impossible to balance the budget unless you remove some of the activity and projects you wish to do on the grounds you can’t afford to do them.”

HRG says the increase will help pay for services picked up by the town council due to cuts made by South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council.

The party carried out an an online survey earlier this year in which three-quarters of the 125 respondents said they would be prepared to pay more in council tax to fund grants to community groups.

At a previous meeting HRG councillor Jane Smewing said a seven per cent increase was in line with the retail price index since the town council last put its tariff up in 2014.

The Tories froze council tax for the two years that they ran the council until May.

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