12:50PM, Wednesday 24 February 2016
The Royal Borough’s cabinet member for finance has described its approved financial plan as a ‘budget for our residents’.
The 2016/17 budget was passed at full council in Maidenhead Town Hall last night.
It includes what the Conservative party describes as a council tax ‘freeze’ but comes with an additional £18 precept per Band D home which allows the borough to spend an extra £3.5m on adult social care, an area where the council under-budgeted by £2.8m in 2015/16.
It is the seventh consecutive year the borough has not increased the levy, if the precept is not counted as ‘council tax’, which the Conservative councillors say it should not be.
The previous six years saw a total reduction of 13.1 per cent. Cabinet member for finance, Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) said this helps people keep more of their money, which can pay for school uniforms, cars and holidays.
He said: “It’s a budget for our residents, a budget where you find out what our residents think on the doorstep. I know what our residents think on the doorstep because I was there earlier today.”
In her budget response, opposition Cllr Lynne Jones (Old Windsor Residents Association, Old Windsor) said she raised concerns last year that thr 2015/16 council tax cut was not viable, and that adult social care costs would rise. She asked for a freeze in 2015/16, not a reduction, and says the 2016/17 ‘increase’ would not have been necessary had they listened to her and not plumped for a 2.1 per cent reduction in 2015/16.
Cllr Jones, who said she supports increased spending for adult social care, attacked ‘stealth taxes’ such as car parking charges, saying season tickets for Home Park in Windsor are going to cost an extra £75 a year, and those in Romney Lock will pay £100 more.
In a fiery meeting where both sides were heckled and could be seen gesturing to each other across the Desborough Suite, Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham) accused Cllr Jones of ‘headline grabbing’ by describing the additional precept as a council tax raise.
The council’s budget report say it provides services with £19.7m less than the average South East authority.
The Royal Borough’s leader, Cllr David Burbage, (Con, Bray) said: “This council continues to be the envy of others. Long may it continue.”
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