Sunday, 05 April 2020

Council tax going up to fund rising cost of adult social care

Council tax going up to fund rising cost of adult social care

RESIDENTS of South Oxfordshire will pay an average of 4.16 per cent more in council tax from April 1.

Oxfordshire County Council, which has the biggest share as it provides the majority of services, has opted for a 3.99 per cent increase, just over half of which is to help fund adult social care.

The district council has increased its share of the tax by 4.12 per cent, following a 4.30 per cent rise last year.

Town and parish councils across the district have agreed an average rise of 5.42 per cent while the tax precept for Thames Valley Police will rise by 4.85 per cent, which represents an increase of £10.

The increases mean that the owner of the average band D property in Henley will pay £1,978 compared with £1,892 currently, a rise of 4.55 per cent.

The county council is raising its share of the tax by 1.99 per cent, with an additional two per cent precept to help fund the rising demand for social care and tackle a £24.3 million deficit.

Leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We want to do much more than simply manage the growing demands on council services. We want to help all our Oxfordshire communities to thrive.

“That means addressing the real causes of that demand for our services so children have the best start in life and older and disabled people can live as independently as possible.

“This is an investment budget that will help us meet the needs of residents and communities as the county changes in the future.

“We plan to redesign services with a greater emphasis on preventing problems before they happen.”

The county plans to invest £30 million in road repairs and £3 million in road safety.

South Oxfordshire’s £5 increase was the maximum it could approve without calling a referendum, which would have cost £100,000.

The district council, which has historically had one of the lowest council tax rates in the country, is facing a £2.2 million deficit.

The Liberal Democrat-Green coalition, which has controlled the council since May, has blamed reduced government funding and zero or low tax rises agreed by the previous Conservative administration.

Deputy leader David Turner said: “This budget ensures we have a robust and reliable position on which to base our plans for the upcoming year while we review our services and develop income generation ideas for the future.

“Despite our ambitious plans for the coming year, there remains a growing question mark over the medium and long-term financial situation.”

The authority faces a potential funding gap of more than £6million by 2024 and has agreed to allocate £500,000 over the next two years to review a number of services, with the aim of increasing revenue.

It is also considering merging with neighbouring Vale of White Horse District Council in order to save money. The councils already share a number of services, as well as a chief executive.

Henley Town Council has approved a 13 per cent tax rise, increasing the amount residents will pay for its services by £12.62 to £108.50.

The increase will reduce the council’s expected overspend of £160,000 for 2020/21 by more than a third, yielding a deficit of £99,500.

Residents of Wargrave, Charvil, Crazies Hill and Remenham face a tax rise of 3.99 per cent agreed by Wokingham Borough Council.

Council leader John Halsall said the figure was below inflation and pledged to invest £46million on roads, £16 million on the climate emergency and £65 million on regeneration projects.

Residents of Caversham and Emmer Green will have to pay 3.99 per cent more to Reading Borough Council.

Council leader Jason Brock said: “A tax rise is always a contentious issue and I appreciate the difficulties around that.

“To deliver services for residents and to invest in Reading’s future, we have to be financially prudent.

“This is Reading’s most ambitious budget in at least half a generation and our ability to be bold is predicated on the platform of financial stability we have created for ourselves with no help from national government.”

The council says it has increased revenue as well as generating capital receipts of £3 million by selling “surplus” assets.

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