Buckinghamshire County Council's cabinet has just recommended just under two per cent increase in Council Tax next year.
I reported a couple of months ago that the council was undertaking a consultation giving residents the option of a two per cent increase, a four per cent increase, or a five per cent increase, but not a freeze. Just under half of those who responded favoured four or five per cent as the council said any additional cash raised above two per cent would be ring fenced and spend on the county's roads. Without a clear mandate, cabinet members did not feel they could proceed with a referendum, which they say would have cost £300,000.
The leader of the council, Cllr Martin Tett, said the consultation did not allow residents the option of a freeze because of the statutory obligations the council has, such as offering every child a school place and it's duty to look after vulnerable children and adults. I find this rather odd as every county council and unitary authority has the same obligations and yet many are still freezing Council Tax. He also commented that he was disappointed more residents had not approved of increases of four or five per cent. But with people struggling with rising prices and stagnant wages, the fact that they cannot afford a Council Tax increase should not come as a suprise .
By not giving them the option of a freeze, Cllr Tett and his colleagues have just held a loaded consultation. Although residents were allowed to leave comments, because a freeze was not presented to them, we do not know how many of them would have gone for that option. For consultations to be credible, all options have to be on the table. It was very disappointing this was not done in Buckinghamshire.