St Albans council tax payers face 3.2 per cent rise

PUBLISHED: 17:21 25 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:57 06 May 2010

COUNCIL tax payers in the St Albans district face an average increase of 3.2 per cent in their Band D bills from April. Band D is the average across the country and it will rise in the district from £1,422.59 in 2008/9 to £1,468.37 in 2009/10. St Albans D

COUNCIL tax payers in the St Albans district face an average increase of 3.2 per cent in their Band D bills from April.

Band D is the average across the country and it will rise in the district from £1,422.59 in 2008/9 to £1,468.37 in 2009/10.

St Albans District Council was due to set its increase at zero per cent last night but Herts County Council has increased its precept - which makes up the largest share of the overall bill - by 3.5 per cent, the police authority by 4.5 per cent. The average for the parish councils is 5.7 per cent.

Despite its increase being the largest of the three main authorities, Herts Police Authority (HPA) has described its 4.5 per cent rise as the lowest for more than 10 years.

It maintains that to continue to deliver the same level of service, it needed an increase of 5.5 per cent. But the decision not to go for the higher figure was reached narrowly and the police authority has agreed to use its reserves to balance the books.

Chair Stuart Nagler said: "It is getting ever more difficult to balance our commitment to high quality policing with the need to keep the burden on council tax-payers as low as possible."

He pointed out that there had been a shortfall in government grant and HPA was facing the same economic difficulties as everyone else including dramatically reduced interest on investments.

The 0 per cent increase in the St Albans council precept has come under fire from Labour group leader, Cllr Roma Mills, who described it as a budget of, "little more than smoke and mirrors".

She hit out at proposed cuts in staffing amounting to £802,000 which, she said, needed to be set against restructuring senior management in the past year, standstill grant allocations to a number of charities and increased fees and charges.

She described it as, "a mean self-serving budget with the headline of 0 per cent council tax increase".

But resources portfolio holder for the ruling Lib-Dem group, Cllr Chris Oxley, questioned whether Cllr Mills wanted the district council to increase its tax by 3.2 per cent in line with the overall increase. "We are damned if we increase tax and damned if we reduce it," he said.

On the jobs front, he pointed out that many of the posts were already vacant because of efficiencies made and the recipients of grants were told 18 months ago that the increase in Government grant meant a one per cent increase last year and no increase this year.

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