Leading Aylesbury Vale councillors set to approve council tax rise

Councillor Neil Blake
Councillor Neil Blake

A move by council leaders to increase taxes and reject ‘free’ Government money has been criticised by opposition members.

Aylesbury Vale District Council cabinet members are tonight (Tuesday) expected to approve a 2% council tax rise for next year, representing £2.62 extra on the average annual household bill.

Bucks County Council and Aylesbury Town Council have both indicated they would like to freeze council tax in 2013/14.

District councillor Neil Blake, cabinet member for resources, said the move would help the authority balance its books. Previous tax freezes and government support reductions have meant the amount available to fund services has shrunk by a third since 2010.

Last year the Government offered a 2.5% freeze grant, which the council accepted. This year the offer is just 1% and the council says accepting it would represent a short term solution and lead to the ‘erosion of core service provision’.

Mr Blake said: “At some point it is predicted that the grant will end and there will be a hole in the finances.”

Increasing council tax by 2% would help fill this hole, but some say the council should still take the grant.

Councillor Steven Lambert, Lib Dem, said: “If there is free money available from the Government we have to consider it. In these difficult times, when we could be heading for a triple dip recession, every penny the household gets the better.”

UKIP councillor Chris Adams said the choice presented a Catch-22 situation, but that the council should still take the grant and look for savings elsewhere. He said: “The people at the bottom are struggling to pay their bills. Any increase puts pressure on families.”

But Mr Blake argued the monthly 26p rise on a Band D property would not severely effect people’s livelihoods. He said: “It will help the council to balance its books and maintain the services that residents have enjoyed for years.”

Increasing the tax is expected to generate around £328,000 more for the council than taking the freeze grant.

Labour Councillor Michael Beall said he could understand the recommendation but warned poorer people will need protecting.