Tuesday, 26 October 2021

£100 rise in council tax to help pay for cost of social care

COUNCIL tax bills across South Oxfordshire will rise by an average of 5.86 per cent from April 1.

The Conservative-controlled district council has increased its portion of the levy for the first time in nine years with a rise of 4.49 per cent.

Oxfordshire County Council, which is also ruled by the Tories and is responsible for most services, has agreed to increase its share by 5.99 per cent — the highest possible amount without having to hold a

Thames Valley Police is increasing its share by 7.05 per cent.

Town and parish councils across the districts are raising their precepts by an average of 3.22 per cent.

This means that a typical band D household will now pay £1,811.33 a year, an increase of more than £100 compared with last year.

County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the extra income was needed to meet the growing cost of social care.

The tax increase for councils in England is capped at 4.99 per cent but an additional one per cent is allowed to help pay for children’s social care. National guidelines say three per cent of the increase must be spent on adult social care.

Councillor Hudspeth said: “We’re pleased that the ability to raise income by an additional one per cent allows us to put more money into children’s social care in addition to the revenue we were already being allowed to raise for adult social care.

“Demands on these services across Oxfordshire and the entire country has been rising and the Government has recognised that. The protection of vulnerable people is the county council’s first priority.”

Each county councillor will be given £15,000 to spend in their wards.

Councillor Hudspeth said: “I am sure many will view highway maintenance and repair as important but others might choose to put funding into community buses, libraries or children’s centres.

“Each area of Oxfordshire is very different. We need to recognise that and give county councillors the opportunity to invest the money in the best way they see fit.” The district council has earmarked £600,000 to tackle environmental issues and more than £1.4 million will be made available for grants towards community projects.

Jane Murphy, cabinet member for finance, said: “Like authorities across the country, due to a reduction in funding available to us, we have had make some tough decisions on this year’s budget.

“Although we’ve had to raise council tax for the first time in nine years, we have kept this rise to an absolute minimum of just £5 over the year.

“We’ve set aside significant funding to boost community projects across the district and launched a new team to allow us to better tackle key environment concerns, such as fly-tipping, graffiti and grass-cutting.”

Residents of Henley will see a slightly larger increase than the average, with the town council raising its precept by seven per cent.

The ruling Henley Residents Group says the money is needed to fund extra services that the council has had to take on due to cuts made by the county and district council.

The opposition Conservatives wanted a tax freeze and to focus on earning extra revenue instead. Increases by other parish councils include 20 per cent by Sonning Common and four per cent by both Benson and Watlington.

Meanwhile, residents of Caversham and Emmer Green will see their council tax rise by the maximum of 5.99 per cent.

Reading Borough Council, which is Labour-controlled, says this is due to an expected 10 per cent rise in the cost of social care over the next year. The increase will raise £4.9 million. 

The council will also make savings by reducing library opening hours, extending residents’ parking areas and “maximising” digital services.

The increase means the average band D household will pay £1,826.63 a year.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said: “Once again the Government has completely failed to address the huge shortfall in vital care services every council faces.”

Residents of Wargrave, Charvil, Crazies Hill and Remenham will see an average increase of 5.49 per cent, including 2.5 per cent set aside for social care costs.

The rise by Conservative-controlled Wokingham Borough Council means an average band D household will pay £1,433.89.

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