Taxpayers in South Beds face an average three per cent rise in their council tax this year, it has been announced.....
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Council tax rises by 3%

Posted on February 15, 2008

Taxpayers in South Beds face an average three per cent rise in their council tax this year, it has been announced.

This article was published in February 2008. Please see Latest News for more recent information.

South Beds Council say households can expect to pay 2.99 per cent extra for its services from April 1 while County Hall has settled on just over three per cent.

The district authority's figure was settled on at a meeting of the council's executive committee and is to be approved by the full council on February 26.

This is the same increase as last year and lower than the current 4% rate of inflation. It averages out at £163.33 for a band D property.

The executive decided that the council needed a total of £15.6 million for 2008/2009 to cover net expenditure and to run its services.

Of this total, £8.8 million will come from the government direct through its annual grant to the authority .

The remaining £6.8million needed for council services will come from local taxpayers.

Council tax payers pay more than this in total, however, because about nine tenths of the total tax payment is paid to support Bedfordshire County Council, the county's police, fire and rescue service and the taxpayer's local town or parish council.

Executive member for resource management, Cllr Phillip Penman, said: "Our internal control systems are working well.

"There is pressure on our car parking budget but, while income receipts from car parking charges are down, we have no plans to increase them.

"Even with a poor government grant settlement, we are still able once again to present a budget to our residents which allows us to raise council tax by the lowest percentage of all major authorities in Bedfordshire whilst continuing to maintain services at their present levels."

Bedfordshire County Council has agreed a council tax increase of 3.8% for 2008/9.

The authority says this is one of the lowest increases likely to be set by a county council in the country and that it is below the level of inflation.

County deputy leader and cabinet member for Finance, Richard Stay, said: "This budget seeks to protect front-line services and invest in our priority areas which the people of Bedfordshire tell us are important to them. These priorities have not changed - more investment for schools, roads and adult social care.

"This is even more remarkable in the context of a hostile government which has 'floored' Bedfordshire for three years running, while favouring its friends on more Northern councils.

"Even if we had received the average of shire county settlements, Bedfordshire would have received an additional £5.8 million in 2008/9, equivalent to £39.00 for every band D property - or over 200 social workers!"

But the council is cutting spending by £1.4 million through savings in customer service, procurement and revised use of accommodation.

Its budget includes:

  • £5.4 million for adult social care to address demographic changes and other significant pressures
  • £1.5 million to priority areas within schools and continuing funding for building schools.
  • Continued investment in roads and footways with an extra £400,000 of revenue investment plus capital investment of £7.45 million to take the council's total investment in roads maintenance to £20 million in 2008/9.
  • £100,000 to fund three special constables to support community safety initiatives.

Council leader, Madeline Russell, said: "We are delivering on our promise to keep council tax increases down. We have listened and responded to residents' priorities.

"We are officially rated as a good council, and we are improving strongly, and this budget reflects the fact that we are well on the way to becoming a great council."

Beds Police Authority has agreed a budget that allows for an additional 24 police officers, taking the total to 1,274, the highest number in the force's history.

At a meeting today (Feb 15), the authority set a budget of just over £96million for 2008-2009, a 5.3 per cent increase on last year.

The council tax precept has been set at £27.494million (29 per cent of the total figure) with the remainder coming from the government.

This means that in the coming year a householder living in an average Band D property will pay £135.28 towards policing (around 37p a day)- an increase of 23p per week or 9.6 per cent over last year's precept of £123.43 for a similar property.

Authority chairman, Peter Conniff, said that he felt the decision to ask local tax payers to invest in their local police service was justified.

"Our consultation established that the majority of those questioned were willing to pay an increase of 11% or more towards policing," he said.

"The authority has lost approximately £4 million per annum since 2006/07 due to changes made by the Government to its funding formula.

"This year, it is seeking to redress the balance to give the chief constable additional resources to bring about performance improvements.

"Cutting crime and keeping people safe costs money.

"This budget will provide the chief constable with more resources, more officers and an increased capability."

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Source: Mick King & Jessica Vince, Leighton Buzzard Observer

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