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Borough says it will freeze council tax ? but overall bill is set to increase

Borough says it will freeze council tax ? but overall bill is set to increase

Simon Meechan

Borough says it will freeze council tax ? but overall bill is set to increase

Council tax bills are set to rise by two per cent as the Borough 'freezes' council tax but adds an £18 annual precept to pay for spiralling adult social care costs.

Cllrs Simon Dudley, David Burbage and David Coppinger

Council tax, which has been reduced every year for six years, will be set at £906.95 for Band D homes, if the council's budget is approved as planned.

But an extra line will be added to the bill, and households will now pay an additional £18 a year to cover the borough's rising adult social care costs.

This takes the Band D total to £924.95, two per cent higher than in 2015/16.

Cllr David Coppinger, the cabinet member for adult services and health said the department took up 40 per cent of the Royal Borough's £89m net budget, and the department overspent by £2.1m last year.

The additional £3.5m will go towards caring for around 2,600 adults, taking the adult social care spend to £46.6m. The borough's population stands at approximately 140,000.

Cllr Coppinger said: "It's a massive amount of money for a relatively small number of people, 2,600 people receive that service. We're focusing very much on the people who need us to look after them. The type of care we are getting gets more complex each year."

"This precept allows us to give a better level of care."

Cllr Simon Dudley, the borough's deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said an aging population could cause adult care to 'Pac-Man', or eat up, a bigger portion of the budget each year, which meant the precept is required.

The freeze, the council says, is a reduction in real terms as it has not kept with inflation.

More homes need to be built, Cllr Dudley said, to increase the amount of council tax payers, and allow the borough to become 'autonomous' and not rely on Government grant funding, which has been cut by 15 per cent.

Royal Borough leader, Cllr David Burbage, said the council is in 'excellent shape' despite the freeze and council tax reductions over the past six years. A Band D council tax payer, he said, will have saved £613, compared to what they would have paid had it been frozen at 2009 levels.

Head of finance Andrew Brooker said the average unitary authority in the South-east spends £711 per head, whereas the borough spends around £570, which works out as a saving of more than £19m.

The budget will be debated at overview and scrutiny panels in the coming weeks before being discussed by cabinet on Thursday February 11

The final decision on the budget will be made by full council on Tuesday, February 23.

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