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Petition to call for referendum on raising Royal Borough council tax above limit

Calls for residents to decide whether council tax should be raised in a referendum are set to be put forward to the council.

Members of the borough's independent group are preparing a petition calling for the council to hold a referendum that would give residents a say on whether council tax should be increased above the five per cent cap.

Three per cent of the cap is the adult social care precept set by the Government, but a further increase to council tax of more than two per cent must be put to a referendum.

With a multitude of cuts announced in the draft budget for 2021/22, Cllr Neil Knowles (Old Windsor, OWRA), has
suggested asking residents if they would prefer a larger council tax hike to protect valuable services from further cuts.

The petition, set to be launched on Monday, will call for a referendum on the 2022/23 budget, with the timescale for setting one up for the 2021/22 budget impossible.

Speaking to the Express, Cllr Knowles said: “I’m not saying we should put council tax up, I’m saying we should present the two options to the residents and allow them to decide.

“It would be more monumental that the Brexit referendum in Windsor and Maidenhead.

“We either accept the cuts or accept that from 2022/23 we can put council tax up to a realistic level.”

Council tax in the Royal Borough is considerably lower than other nearby local authorities.

In unparished Windsor, the overall council tax bill for a Band D property is £1,395.60, compared to £1,703.35 in Slough and £1,976.04 in Reading.

While the low tax has been beneficial for residents in the past, it now means the Royal Borough has less ability to manoeuvre out of the tough economic position it is in as a result of COVID-19 and past financial mismanagement.

Council leader Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) has been lobbying the Government to raise or abolish the cap to allow the council to increase council tax further, but has not expressed much interest in holding a referendum.

Cllr Johnson has been contacted for comment.

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