Cabinet split over council tax increase

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HOUSEHOLDERS could be facing a 2.5 per cent council tax hike despite the government pledging a fund to keep it the same.

The coalition has offered £245,000 if Aylesbury Vale District Council’s rate stays frozen – but the authority’s proposed increase would raise £750,000 over three years.

Senior cabinet members this week spoke of their ‘distrust’ of the coalition’s offer because it is only valid for a year – forcing them to make ‘doubly big’ savings when the grant is taken away and fearing that more cuts are coming.

But cabinet members Phil Yerby and Sir Beville Stanier called on the authority to ‘take the money’ and lobby the government for a fair grant settlement in the future.

AVDC aims to save 2.6 million this year and the final decision on the budget will be made on February 1.

The proposed increase will cost the average Band D property an extra £3.28 a year – it is currently £131 a year, the national average is £160.

Cabinet member for resources Neil Blake, who believes that council tax should rise, argued ‘most members of the public will understand and accept the reasons’.

He said: “Last year we took advantage of the government’s freeze grant, but this year the difference between the two schemes is that the current offer is for one year only.”

Mr Blake says he would be ‘deeply concerned’ about having to make up the shortfall next year alongside further cuts.

Pam Pearce claimed not increasing council tax this year, but then cutting ‘vital’ services next year will ‘come back to bite us’, adding: “We won’t get knocked by the public this year, but we will next year.”

Brian Roberts backed the council tax rise, saying he was ‘distrustful’ of the government after it halved its support for solar panels and started consulting on changes to its current grants.

Chief executive of the council Andrew Grant noted that any additional money would not come from ‘new money’ but instead from cuts imposed on other council’s – which he claimed leaves the current grant system subject to change in future years.

Mr Yerby said he did not accept the council was ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ and called on the councillors to do ‘everything possible before we consider putting council tax up’ and continue looking for efficiencies.