TOP Thurrock councillors have recommended that council tax bills should rise by less than a pound a week for 88 out of 100 of the borough’s homes.
On Wednesday (10 February) the cabinet has recommended to full council – which meets two weeks later – that a two per cent “care tax” and a 1.99 per cent rise should be agreed.
The move follows an investigation by the council’s cross-party Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee earlier this month.
Thurrock Council Leader, Cllr John Kent, told Wednesday’s meeting: “There are a couple of things we need to say in setting the scene for this, the first is that we have a new government and it has changed the stance on council tax. The previous government’s view was that council tax shouldn’t rise and indeed there was no need for it to rise and to assist us in that they introduced the council tax freeze grants – which we accepted more years than we didn’t.
“A new government has brought new rules and what they are saying is we are entering an era of financial self-sustainability and for local authorities that means if you want to spend it, you’ve got to raise it yourself, either through business rates or through council tax.
“Therefore government is telling us we should implement the two per cent social care precept and then increase council tax by at least 1Â¾ per cent to take care of inflation.”
He added: “I have to say the government has introduced new burdens as well as cutting grants by around Â£8 million. We have the effect of the National Minimum Wage, something we all welcome, but it comes at a price tag of about Â£1Â½ million for this authority and no funding to meet it.
“And then there’s the apprentice levy which will cost the council another Â£Â½ million, again, something I think we would welcome, but it would be nice if it were funded; and there’s the scrapping of the freeze grant and that’s another Â£600,000.”
He said that amounted to “an increase alone of Â£2.6 million” while the 3.99 per cent proposal “would bring in something in the region of Â£2.2 million, so still Â£400,000 short of a standstill position”, leaving the council with “no option but to agree to the recommendation of overview and scrutiny”.
Cllr Kent told cabinet: “I have to say that this increase equates to something like 86p a week for a Band D property and most properties in Thurrock are in Bands A to C so it will be significantly less.
“It will still leave us as the lowest council tax in Essex and the third lowest council tax of any unitary authority in the country.