Thursday, 26 November 2020

Services cut but council tax up

RESIDENTS of Henley and South Oxfordshire will pay an average of about £56 more in council tax from April 1.

RESIDENTS of Henley and South Oxfordshire will pay an average of about £56 more in council tax from April 1.

The owner of a typical band D home will pay £1,640.13 compared with £1,584.63 this year, a 3.5 per cent increase.

Oxfordshire County Council has increased its share of the tax, which is by far the largest, by 3.99 per cent, double last year’s rise.

It comes as the council makes multi-million pound cuts across a range of services in the wake of a “bleak” funding settlement from the Government.

Henley’s county councillor David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for environment, said: “We don’t like what we’re doing but we have got to continue to provide the core and statutory services.

“The only way to do that is to increase council tax. We have no reserves to fall back on because we’re reducing them as part of the budget.” County councils in England are allowed to raise council tax by up to four per cent before a referendum is required.

Two per cent of this is the previous limit with a further two per cent allowed for spending on adult social care.

However, Oxfordshire says the benefit of the two per cent increase is cancelled out by the Government not compensating councils for the estimated costs of the new national living wage.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “Two per cent of the four per cent is essentially for social services to bring the staff up to the national living wage.

“Giving us an extra two per cent doesn’t cover all the costs, so we’re actually making a loss out of it.

“Last year we were capped at two per cent and the year before that too.

“What we want to do is make sure the amount of money we do raise is spread as evenly as possible to make sure we have maximum bang for our buck.

“Fifty per cent of the budget goes on two per cent of the population. We’re projecting that number may increase as a percentage of people.”

South Oxfordshire District Council has frozen its portion of the tax, meaning that people in a band D property will continue to pay £111.24 for the services it provides.

Councillor Jane Murphy, cabinet member for finance, said: “While many other councils are increasing their charges, we have frozen council tax for 2016/17.

“We know we have more challenges to face from the changes to government policy that are taking place and the uncertainty of the future funding streams.

“However, the good news is that the years of careful planning and sound financial management have left us in a stronger position than many and we have been able to reduce our costs as our funding has fallen over the years and continues to do so.”

Henley Town Council has frozen its share at £87 for a band D household.

Councillor Will Hamilton, chairman of Henley Town Council’s finance and management committee, said: “We’re very pleased that we’re not increasing taxes but managing our finances properly. We expect not to increase council tax in Henley for the next four years.”

Thames Valley Police has increased its share by almost two per cent.

Residents of Wokingham borough, which includes Wargrave and Remenham, will pay an average of £55 more from next month, an increase of 3.6 per cent.

Homeowners in Caversham and Emmer Green will see a 3.7 per cent increase in the tax charged by Reading Borough Council, meaning a Band D householder will pay £1,648.

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