Sunday, 14 August 2022

'Three-quarters of residents support tax rise to help needy'

THREE-QUARTERS of residents would be willing to pay more in council tax towards community grants, according to research carried out by Henley Residents’ Group.

A total of 125 people took part in an online survey created by the ruling party on the town council between September 11 and October 23.

The group says the survey was devised in response to funding cuts made by Oxfordshire County Council and other bodies, leading to a reduction in some local services.

It wanted people’s views on how the town council should spend its money if it decides to make more funds available for grants.

Out of 120 people who answered the question “How much would you be prepared to pay?” 37.5 per cent (45) said they would be willing to pay an average annual increase of £6.27 per household, or 12p per week, for an average Band D property while 28.3 per cent (34) would pay between £11 and £20 more.

More than eight per cent (10) would accept a £1 increase but 25.8 per cent (31) were against any increase.

The responses were roughly 50-50 between men and women with the latter willing to pay slightly more. 

Of those who took part, three people were aged between 18 and 30, 27 were 31 to 45, 56 were 46 to 59, 31 were more than 60 and eight people opted not to provide their age.

The survey, which was only circulated on social media and via email, also asked for views on what should be the top two and bottom two priorities for town council funding over the next two years.

Almost 55 per cent were in favour of “care for disadvantaged local children and young people” and almost 53 per cent favoured “provision for those local residents with mental health issues (all ages, including dementia)”.

Women were more favourable towards these two priorities than men, some of whom preferred to support educational, museum and sporting activities.

The bottom two priorities were arts activities, which registered less than 10 per cent of the vote, while sporting activities fared slightly better with just under 15 per cent of the vote.

Comments made by respondents included “Henley is in desperate need of facilities”, “unless they are helped, disadvantaged people will continue to be disadvantaged” and “less spending on flowers, more spending on people”.

Ian Reissmann, leader of the HRG councillors on the council, said: “There weren’t any surprises and the results reflects our thoughts that people are concerned about services that are under threat. We are residents ourselves, we talk to residents and go to see organisations where we are members and trustees.

“What we hear more and more is very clear cases for us helping organisations and we receive so many requests nowadays. I am happy to propose that we give whatever we can where the residents of Henley benefit.”

“The policy of the Conservatives has been to freeze council tax for the last four years. We have always taken the view that we should raise council tax by inflation. If you freeze it, then the actual amount of money to spend is less because costs rise and you have fewer financial resources available.”

Sara Miller, who chairs the party and is also a town councillor, said: “It was apparent that residents are very aware of the pressure on services, particularly when funding from the county and district councils has been reduced or withdrawn completely.

“Mental health scored very highly and residents want to see us work with the young and disadvantaged.”

Julian Brookes, leader of the Conservatives on the town council, said: “Our policy is not to increase taxes unless it is the last thing that has to be done because we believe this kind of taxation does impact the least able to afford it. You have to take great care if you are increasing taxation.”

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