Small rise in Council Tax is necessary says leader

The district council is proposing a small rise in Council Tax.

The district council has confirmed they have proposed a small rise in Council Tax. - Credit: PA

With public focus on the cost of living and concerns being voiced on matters such as inflationary pressures and energy price rises our attention at the district council is also currently very much on financial matters as the council moves closer to setting a final budget for 2022/23.

Ryan Fuller is the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Ryan Fuller is the leader of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: HDC

By this stage, we have spent many months working on and finalising a budget that has now been formally considered by our cross-party scrutiny committee and the Cabinet. The budget will be presented to a meeting of the full council for a final decision on Wednesday, February 23.

It’s fair to say that the pandemic has tested the finances of councils throughout the country with unavoidable costs spiralling and income falling away, but the prudent approach to financial management that HDC has taken over many years meant that we weathered the storm.

Not only will we have managed to deliver a surplus budget this financial year but we are also putting forward a balanced budget for 2022/23 that does not reduce or cut any services.

In fact, this proposed budget sets out how the council will continue to protect and enhance frontline services as well as support our businesses and residents in the medium to long term recovery from the pandemic. 

It also sets out a multi-million-pound capital programme of town centre regeneration and improvements.

It’s a budget that provides the foundations for a stronger future for everyone across the district by investing in enhancing our local environment, creating employment opportunities, providing health and wellbeing initiatives, offering a helping hand to those most in need and delivering support to local businesses.

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Given the impact of the aforementioned cost of living increases on the council, we have also made provision for a small increase of 10p per week in our share of the Council Tax.

As we collect Council Tax on behalf of Cambridgeshire County Council, the police, fire service and town/parish councils, HDC only actually keeps 7p of every £1 of Council Tax.

Our share of the Council Tax is set to go up by £5 a year to £150.86 a year for an average property. To put this in context, if you live in Huntingdon or St Neots for example, you now pay more Council Tax to those town councils each year than you do to HDC.

Of the 181 non-metropolitan district councils across England, HDC had the 18th lowest Council Tax charge in the country for 2021/22.

We were also one of just 19 district councils in the entire country to freeze Council Tax this financial year as the country faced one of the worst phases of the pandemic.

As a result, Huntingdonshire residents still pay less Council Tax than the residents of neighbouring South Cambridgeshire, Cambridge City and Fenland.

The amount residents will pay for HDC’s services from April 2022 will only have risen by 25p a week since April 2018.

Huntingdonshire residents also benefit from lower Council Tax because of the significant progress we have made in generating other council income such as the £5m a year that our commercial estate contributes, with Council Tax funding just 45 per cent of all council services.

A 10p a week rise means that the average household will still only pay a total of £2.90 a week for all the services provided by HDC – a sum that frankly I think most would be prepared to pay just to have their bins emptied; never mind all the other services HDC provides.

Services such as our award-winning parks, nature reserves and open spaces, grass cutting, homelessness prevention and housing advice, funding for community and voluntary groups, street cleaning, CCTV, markets, licensing and environmental health, leisure centres and sports facilities, economic development and skills support amongst many others.

Not to forget the distribution of £56m of business grants and further direct support for households throughout the pandemic - all still delivered for just £2.90 a week.