Buckinghamshire County Council is holding a consultation with local residents about Council Tax. So far, so good, however as reported by Harry Phibbs on Conservative Home, residents will not have an option to vote for a freeze or a cut. Instead they will be asked to chose from increases of two per cent, four per cent, or five per cent. As with all of these loaded consultations, the council helpfully informs residents what it can do with all the extra cash. Here is an example:
2% increase in Council Tax – this would provide us with an extra £4.4m, which means we could maintain our main services to the most vulnerable - although it would still mean cuts to other services and would not allow us to carry on putting extra money towards road repairs.
A household paying Band D Council Tax would pay 41p more a week (less than a bar of chocolate)
Residents are then walked through the next option of a four per cent rise, and finally are told what they can expect if the council increases Council Tax by five per cent:
5% increase in Council Tax – this would provide us with an extra £11m, which means we could maintain most of our services to the vulnerable and spend an extra £6.2m on roads, which could fill an extra 117,000 potholes.
A household paying Band D Council Tax would pay £1.04 more a week (less than a cup of coffee)
By law we would need to hold a local referendum (vote) for Council Tax increases over 2%. Holding a referendum would incur some costs, however we can keep those costs down by holding the vote during an election period.
You can see what the preferred option is!
In 2010-11, the council had £339 million to spend, however that has been reduced to £320 million - a reduction of £19 million. To put that into perspective, a budget reduction of under six per cent. Other councils have had to cope with larger reductions in percentage terms, and yet have still not increased Council Tax.
Has the council looked at '50 ways to save' published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG)? Has it looked at getting a better deal on procurement? Has it explored all ways to share services? Does it really need to spend over £800,000 on communications?
I am sure there will be many local people who would like choices other than a Council Tax increase. Send in your suggestions!