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Council tax to rise again in new budget

Households will have to pay a 2.99 per cent council tax rise if the 2019/20 budget is passed next month.

The rise, the highest the council can ask for without a referendum, is the latest in a series of annual hikes proposed by the Conservative administration after years without an increase.

It will take the cost for a band D property up to £961.33 per year – up £27.91 from last year. The adult social care levy, a ring-fenced precept introduced to meet the ever-rising cost of adult social care, will remain unchanged.

The borough says the extra council tax will contribute to a £3.5m increase in the council’s reserves to £11.7m.

Cllr MJ Saunders, cabinet member for finance, said: “We have many challenges in the years to come and it is sensible and prudent for us to add £3.5m to our reserves in response to those challenges.”

The Royal Borough is proposing a total budget spend of £80.6m in 2019/20.

Service budgets will be increased by £11.2m, but spending reductions in other areas will total £6.8m.

Discretionary business rate reliefs are set to stay the same.

Cllr Saunders said: “It is very important that during a period of economic uncertainty, and of course particularly in Maidenhead a period of significant change due to the regeneration, that businesses are assisted to the greatest extent we can.”

Children’s services gross spend was above budget in 2018/19, costing £4m. This was mainly a result of the rising cost of looking after children in care.

Cllr Saunders has said he has ‘encouraged people to be thoughtful and challenging’ when deciding on the budget in their department for the coming year.

He said: “I have ensured that each of the relevant officers and cabinet members have assembled a very clear analysis of why they’ve chosen the budget for next year that they’ve chosen.”

The £6.8m in reductions include ‘targeted efficiencies’ and additional parking charges without a resident advantage card.

A budget of £300,000 for grants to community organisations has been ring-fenced.

Cllr Saunders said: “There were a number of suggestions being made to tighten our belt even tighter, but the officers and the councillors decided that we would not make savings where it resulted in any reduction or any closure in service to residents.”

There will also be new gross capital investment of £25.7m including £12.7m to highways, £10.1m for resident facilities and £2.9m in community infrastructure, council property and planning.

The proposed budget will be scrutinised in the coming weeks before being debated by full council on February 26 in the town hall.

Budget increases of £11.2m and reductions of £6.8m for 2019/20 include:

 

Increases:

  •  Cost inflation across all services is £1.1m including staff pay reward of £300,000
  •  Children’s and adult services needs £4.2m, primarily for children in care
  •  Accounting for reduced parking income of £1.3m, mainly from Advantage Card discounts
  •  Weekly bin collections and recycling contracts worth £1m

 

Reductions:

  • Additional grant income and ‘targeted efficiencies’ in children’s services worth £1.7m
  • ‘Targeted efficiencies’ in the delivery of adult, home care and public health services of £1.1m
  • New property-related income of £600,000
  • Reduced number of councillors and related costs worth £200,000

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