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Borough plans first increase in eight years after remembering ‘forgotten power'

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A London borough is proposing to increase council tax for the first time in eight years, LGC’s Council Tax Tracker has found.

The move, by Kensington & Chelsea RBC, is a further sign of the pressure on council budgets in 2017-18. Out of 38 top tier authorities’ proposals for which LGC’s Council Tax Tracker has so far obtained details, 36 are planning to raise council tax by between 3.9% and the maximum amount of 3.99%. This is made up of the 2% social care precept and the 1.99% increase in regular council tax councils can make without having to hold a referendum. 

Kensington and Chelsea “do not” plan to implement the social care precept in 2017-18.

The borough’s council tax bill is currently the fifth lowest in the country and the authority believes it will remain so despite the proposed 1.99% increase next year – the first increase in the borough since 2009.

Out of 51 local authorities’ proposals for which LGC’s Council Tax Tracker has so far obtained details, only one other council has proposed a freeze in regular council tax – Wyre Forest DC.

Kensington & Chelsea needs to find £8m savings next year, of which it has identified £6m. The Conservative-controlled council had a net revenue budget of £155m in 2016-17. A rise of 1.99% in council tax will raise about £1.5m for social care services, leader Nick Paget-Brown (Con) said in a blog post.

The council’s capacity to find savings while increasing income was “diminishing”, he said and added: “Though £8m is smaller than the £12m we had to find in 2015-16, it was proving just as hard to come up with budget proposals that delivered the full amount. Until that is, we remembered something, a power so rarely used it had almost been forgotten: we can put the council tax up.”

 

Graphics: Charlotte Thomas

Cllr Paget-Brown said all councils were being “tempted” to reduce “class-leading” services to balance budgets and likened it to “swapping from Waitrose to the perfectly acceptable Sainsbury’s”.

The next smallest increase for a top tier authority outside of Kensington & Chelsea is a proposed 3% rise by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

The lowest rise has been proposed by St Albans City & DC – 1%.

Meanwhile, seven out of the 13 districts LGC’s Council Tax Tracker has details of so far are seeking to make use of the freedom to increase bills by £5 on a band D property. That power for districts to raise council tax by whichever is the greatest of 2% or £5 came into effect this year.

The LGC Council Tax Tracker for 2016-17 showed that of 215 proposals found, 189 councils planned an increase while only one council cut its bill. Figures from the Department for Communities & Local Government show council tax increased by an average of 3.1% in 2016-17, the largest rise since 2008-09.

 

 

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