Friday, 22 February 2019

Council agrees 3 per cent rise on tax precept

Council agrees 3 per cent rise on tax precept

RESIDENTS of Henley are to pay more for services provided by the town council.

The council has agreed a three per cent increase in its share of council tax from April 1.

It will mean an average band D household will pay £95.87, an increase of £2.78.

The council will raise £550,888 from the new precept, an extra £20,154 compared with the current year.

Members of the ruling Henley Residents Group said the rise was in line with inflation and would help plug a £66,000 deficit in the budget for 2019-20.

But opposition Conservative councillors said raising the tax should only be used as the last option.

Speaking at a council meeting last week, Councillor Will Hamilton (Con) said: “Putting up council tax hurts those people who are least able to afford it.

“I don’t think an increase is necessary at this time, particularly when other organisations, like the police, are having to put up their share.

“At the moment this council is not living within its means despite the good investment performance.”

He said HRG was relying too heavily on the Community Infrastructure Levy which is paid by developers in return for being granted planning permission.

“Just remember CIL is infrastructure money and once it runs out there won’t be any left,” said Cllr Hamilton.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith (Con) said the council was using the £165,000 of income from its investments to “prop up” its budget otherwise households would be paying £120 a year for the council’s services.

“Over the last year no one has looked seriously at how to actually reduce the amount of money that we use from our investments and how we look at capital projects for building for the future of this town,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Ken Arlett (HRG) said: “We’re living above our means, there’s no doubt about that. We need to go with a small increase.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann (HRG) said that in the four years from 2011 to 2015 there was an overall surplus in the budget of £84,000 and in 2015/16 the council had a deficit of £4,000.

But in 2016/17, when the Conservatives controlled the council, there was deficit of £278,000.

“It has taken us several years to overcome the deficit,” he said. “We have only succeeded so far in getting it down to £47,000. This is £2.78 per year on top of the £93 per year that people pay in Henley to this council and I think that represents very good value for things we do.”

He said Henley provided best value compared with Thame where residents pay £150, Chinnor (£120), Watlington (£109) and Didcot (£106).

Councillor Kellie Hinton (HRG) said hers was a low-income household and she was “fine” with the increase.

She added: “When you have got councillors who chair committees and run £300,000 deficits it’s a bit rich really to say ‘let’s decrease income as well’.”

Councillor Lorraine Hillier (Ind Con) said the increase was “absolutely necessary”.

Councillor Julian Brookes (Con) said there had been £275,000 in capital investments in the year his party had control of the council.

This included £100,000 to both the Henley YMCA and Henley Rugby Club and £75,000 to repair the chapels at Fair Mile cemetery.

Councillor Jane Smewing (HRG), who chairs the finance, strategy and management committee, said: “On the CIL point it is a case of ‘use it or lose it’. If we do not use it within five years of this council receiving it, it reverts to South Oxfordshire District Council.”

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