03:11PM, Wednesday 13 January 2021
Calls for residents to decide whether council tax should be raised in a referendum have been put forward to the council.
Members of the borough's independent group, The Borough First, have prepared 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, members of The Borough First have suggested asking residents if they would prefer a larger council tax hike to protect valuable services from further cuts.
The estimated cost of holding a referendum is £200,000.
The petition calls for a referendum on the 2022/23 budget, with the timescale for setting one up for the 2021/22 budget impossible.
At a launche event on Monday, The Borough First leader David Buckley said: “It’s about a voice and a choice rather than just be left to local or central Government to look at increases.”
Council tax in the Royal Borough is considerably lower than other nearby local authorities.
In unparished Maidenhead, 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.
The low tax 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.
An estimated cost of £200,000 to hold a referendum may seem hard to justify for some, but councillors at the launch were adamant that it represents value for money.
Councillor Geoff Hill (TBF, Oldfield) said: “Yes it is expensive, £200,000 in the current climate with the pressure the borough is under.
“What I would say is democracy is expensive and democracy is a very difficult system to run, it’s the hardest system of running a country in the world, I also believe it’s the very best.
“You can’t put a price on democracy and freedom and get people the opportunity to express their views in a fair and transparent way.”
The petition was submitted to the council’s democratic services on Monday and is set to appear on the council’s website in the coming days.
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.
Cllr Johnson has been contacted for comment.
The race to get as many people vaccinated against coronavirus has ramped up in the Royal Borough and Slough amidst an ongoing rise in cases across the country.