10:40AM, Thursday 09 January 2020
Council tax could rise by 1.99 per cent along with a two per cent increase in the adult social care precept, under Royal Borough proposals for next year’s budget.
Under the proposals, the overall council tax bill will rise by 3.9 per cent in the 2020-21 financial year, meaning the contribution of a band D home in an unparished area of Maidenhead would rise from £1,339.65 to £1,391.90.
A council tax rise of more than 2.99 per cent (excluding the adult social care precept) would require a referendum.
Council leader Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) told the Advertiser on Tuesday that he has ruled out a referendum as the council looks to create a budget for 2020-21 that will manoeuvre the Royal Borough out of its predicted £3.7million overspend.
He said: “I don't want to go down the route of a referendum. It was briefly considered and ruled out.
“I’d much rather have this remaining as a low tax council authority but one where the user pays the going rate for the additional services.
“Next year, the budget gap will be quite large. Like most local authorities, what we call the growth issues, the cost pressures, the inflations, the sort of service-led pressure driven by demographics, are quite significant.”
Although he would not reveal any precise details about the budget, for which the papers are due to be released on Monday, January 20, he revealed that he has had to ‘think the unthinkable’ to create a budget that he thinks will bring ‘long-term financial stability’ to the Royal Borough.
He said: “I’m confident we’ll deliver a balanced budget. I’m hopeful it will be enough to get us back into a position of long-term financial stability – that’s certainly the ambition of this administration, to get us back onto a sure footing.
“There is a way out.”
He added that the budget will ‘minimise’ the use of reserves and reform the children’s and adult’s services departments, which are forecast to have £1.57m and £678,000 overspends respectively in 2019-20.
Other focuses of the budget will include investment in highways, leisure, affordable homes and sustainability.
In response to Cllr Johnson’s disclosures, local independents leader Cllr Lynne Jones (OWRA, Old Windsor), who has not been involved in the budget discussions, expressed disappointment that a larger increase in council tax is not being considered.
She said: “The whole council should be considering a council tax increase – what are our other options?
“The corners have been swept, we have been doing that for the last four years to make up for the huge council tax reductions between 2012 and 2016.
“I would like to see the truth, let’s be open about it, let’s see where we have got to, why we have got there.
“Simon Dudley and MJ Saunders (former council leader and cabinet member for finance) put us in this mess and they are now gone.
“They can just walk away from it and the residents are either going to have fewer services or pay more council tax. It is absolutely abysmal.”
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