Herts County Conservatives push through hike in council tax

Cash in Hand

Cash in Hand - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Council tax is to rise for the first time in six years after the county council agreed this week to a 1.99 per cent increase.

With council tax broken down into various precepts - including St Albans council and Herts Police - the increase in the county council share, which is the largest, will be apparent in bills that go out next month.

The ruling Conservative group, which has frozen council tax increases since 2009, blames financial pressures for the increase including a reduction in central government grant and a greater number of older people requiring care and more children needing school places.

It has made savings totalling £172 million from its annual budget since 2010 by a variety of means including efficiency measures, reduction in staff numbers, negotiation of better value contracts and streamlining services provided with other public sector organisations to avoid duplication.

But the Opposition Lib Dem group on the county council has accused the ruling party of increasing council tax as far as possible without having to take it to a countywide referendum.

The Lib Dems have hit out at what they call “proposed swingeing cuts to buses and library services” in a bid to save money and put forward its own budget which was rejected at Tuesday’s county council meeting.

Opposition group leader, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst commented: “I am appalled. The county council clearly has to be careful and look after taxpayers’ money properly, but right now putting up council tax by almost two per cent and also hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth.”

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Cabinet member for resources, Cllr Derrick Ashley, said the council faced a “looming gap in funding” over the next few years and with the country’s economy recovering, it was felt that a modest increase could be sought.

He went on: “Increasing pressures on our essential statutory services mean we must act to protect them; for example, we have more older people requiring care.

“If we want to continue to provide these services without seeing reductions in the amountof money we have to spend elsewhere - for example to invest in Hertfordshire’s infrastructure - it’s vital we look to the future and act prudently.”

With both St Albans council and Herts Police freezing their precept, most local council tax bills will increase on average by £22.26 a year for a Band D property.