One per cent council tax increase passes St Albans council vote

Cllr Alec Campbell in the Chamber.

Cllr Alec Campbell in the Chamber. - Credit: St Albans district council

A one per cent increase in council tax and a £1m package of savings has been passed by St Albans council.

Councillors voted for the corporate plan and budget at last week’s meeting of the full council.

Council leader Alec Campbell said: “The corporate plan builds upon the achievements of this administration since 2011.”

He highlighted the three new sports centres, the £37m invested in them, and the first housebuilding in the district “for a generation”.

Improvements to existing council houses, saving tenants money on bills and reducing greenhouse emissions, were also mentioned.

However, Cllr Campbell added: “There is still lots to do. We have failed to complete our local plan and must risk government intervention.

“Roads, pavements, and verges are still not as clean as they should be. We have problems with street drinkers and people sleeping rough. 60 per cent of the district’s population are overweight.

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“Our plan seeks to address these and many other improvements: we will protect the Green Belt, and work with the Environment Agency for a solution for Verulamium Lake.

“We have to maintain a thriving community.”

Included in the plan is a previously announced 1.7 per cent increase in the district council’s share of council tax.

The final amount residents will have to pay also depends on how much money other authorities like the police and Herts county council set in their precepts.

The final figure for council tax will be discussed by St Albans council next February.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats on the council, Anthony Rowlands, said: “We remain concerned about the Christmas market.

“It has registered a deficit that does not get smaller every year.”

The market lost £53,000 last year, and only 33 vendors rented stalls.

This year, 18,000 people attended the city’s Christmas lights switch-on and made use of 70 stalls at the market.

Cllr Rowlands also complained the council was not making full use of facilities like the Jubilee Centre.

He proposed an amendment to the plan to give the council’s scrutiny committees oversight over the City Neighbourhoods Committee and the use of facilities like the Jubilee Centre.

Cllr Campbell did not accept the amendment, so it went to a vote at the end of the session, and was defeated.

Also included in the corporate plan is £1m of savings, partly from a three per cent increase in parking charges at Westminster Lodge, the Civic Centre, and Clarence Park.

The council are also saving £60k by removing recycling banks, £60k by reducing bus subsidies, and some from staff cuts.

Leader of the Labour group on the council, Cllr Roma Mills, said: “We are facing the total withdrawal of revenue support. “Those of us who have been councillors for many years will know how important that support was in sustaining local government services.”

The revenue support grant has been continually cut due to reductions in the grant from central government.

It previously stood at £7m, but next year it will have completely gone.

Cllr Mills said: “There has been no outrage, but this has meant charging more for services and job cuts.”

She welcomed the council’s new commercial and development department, but warned against higher borrowing.

“There is lots to disagree with, but we will not vote against the budget.”

The plan was passed with a sizeable majority.