12:08PM, Friday 10 February 2017
Questions were put to councillors from children at Cox Green School yesterday evening (Thursday), before the panel approved the Royal Borough’s new budget.
The budget proposes a 0.95 per cent increase in the core council tax, and an adult social care levy rise of 3 per cent.
Councillors approved the budget paper, including an extra recommendation from Phillip Bicknell (Con, Park) to add £80,000 for the Pave Dedworth scheme ‘that’s going to beautify Dedworth’ that did not appear in the document.
Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said he wanted to counter the notion the council was ‘only having to increase council tax now because you did not charge enough in the past’.
He said: “I am sorry, but I have real difficulty with the point.
“Why on earth would I want to take money off people in the past when we didn’t need to?
“We tax people when we truly need the money and when we don’t need it we give it back to them.
“The fact we are increasing is this year by 3.95 per cent in total, including the 3 per cent adult social care levy, is a direct and legitimate response to the service needs that are arising in this year, and which is legitimate, this year, to invite residents to pay a little more.
“It flies in the face of any financial competence to suggest that is the result of not properly charging people in the past. I’m very proud to have been at the helm of this budget.”
It followed a series of questions on CCTV, housing developments and education in the borough from Cox Green pupils.
The final question from one student from the Highfield Lane school was about the Advertiser front page yesterday (Thursday), which said there was a £13 million black hole in the adult social care budget which would increasingly need to be filled with funding from council tax and other income sources.
Councillors, however, seemed to believe the headline was the result of an accounting error.
Leader of the council Simon Dudley said: “If they had more accountants working for them they’d understand how budgets work. Clearly, they haven’t got enough accountants working at the Maidenhead Advertiser.
“My final piece of advice in life is, don’t believe everything you read in newspapers,” he said to the pupils, to laughter from his cabinet colleagues.
When the students had finished their questions and began to leave, he remarked: “Some of it may make it into the papers, but it probably won’t be correctly reported.”
It drew further laughter from councillors.
The report will now go before full council to be discussed.