Rise in Council Tax challenged at meeting

HDC has confirmed there will be a rise in Council Tax bills in April. 

HDC has confirmed there will be a rise in Council Tax bills in April. - Credit: PA

Council Tax bills will rise in April and some opposition councillors have raised concerns about the future funding of services.

At a meeting held last night (February 23) Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) approved the budget, which means Council Tax for an average Band D property is set to rise by £5 a year to £150.86.

HDC says the increase amounts to 10p a week for the average household and means most people will pay £2.90 a week for all services provided by the council.

Liberal Democrat councillors on HDC either voted against the motion or abstained and their leader, Cllr Sarah Conboy said they had raised concerns about future planning.

Sarah Conboy has raised concerns after learning Council Tax bills will rise in April.

Sarah Conboy has raised concerns after learning Council Tax bills will rise in April. - Credit: HDC

“We have consistently said that we are worried that the Conservatives are not making sufficient plans for the future and dipping heavily into reserves that will not easily be replaced.

"They feigned shock and indignation that we might dare to lay bare the emperor’s 'lack of clothes', but here we are."

Cllr Conboy continued: “It is essential that everyone has the services they need, and many have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

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"Increasing costs of living and financial uncertainty mean families are having to choose whether to buy food or heat their homes."

"The key thing will be to remember the enormity of the impact covid has had on families and putting them first.”

The Conservative group, however, says its budget sets out how the council will continue to provide vital frontline services as well as support businesses and residents in the medium to long term recovery from COVID-19 and has pointed out that a total of 35 councillors voted in favour of the Council Tax rise.

Cllr Jonathan Gray, executive councillor for Strategic Finance, said: “As we collect Council Tax on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council, the police, fire and town/parish councils, we keep just 7p of every £1 of Council Tax collected.

"'Unfortunately, the comments on the council’s budget from the Lib-Dem group bear little resemblance to the reality.

"In the middle of a pandemic the Conservative administration has managed to set two consecutive surplus budgets that make no call on reserves. Our future forecasting on the use of reserves is based on very prudent assumptions – and our track record demonstrates this. The reserves we may use in future were specifically built up for emergency events such as a pandemic, or a shift in central government policy.

"These reserves are not ‘borrowings’, as Cllr Conboy mentioned in her address to Council but are budget surpluses from previous years that have been set aside for this very reason." 

The Lib-Dems have consistently urged the Conservative administration to raise Council Tax to the maximum – that has been their narrative every year at HDC for over two decades. Last year – in the midst of the worst of the lockdown and uncertainty – they again urged a maximum increase. We chose to freeze Council Tax instead. Indeed, Council Tax has risen by 1.8% on average over the past four years – this is below the rate that pensions and wages are rising at. Now, 12 months later, the Lib-Dems shift a two-decade view on Council Tax and ask for a freeze – whilst at the same time inferring that HDC needs more money."

Ryan Fuller talks about the Council Tax rise: https://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/local-council/small-rise-in-council-tax-bills-proposed-8695342