Council tax to rise in South Kesteven

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South Kesteven District Council voted unanimously in favour of raising its share of the council tax by £5 a year as it looks set to lose £1.2 million over the next four years.

This means that people living in Band D properties will pay an extra £5 per year which will go towards council services, as agreed in a public consultation earlier this year.

The budget included a number of new growth opportunities, some of which have already been approved by council this year, including The Big Clean, Invest SK and leisure and arts. It will also have an increased focus on affordable housing, car parking charges, investing and attracting tourism into the area, a business waste scheme and improvement to the local environment. These will be funded through a number of new initiatives designed to deliver savings over the budget period.

Adam Stokes, (Con) cabinet member for finance, said: “This is a very bold budget. It aims to ensure that SKDC has the funding it needs to continue to deliver the 100-plus essential services that we deliver to every resident in every ward across our district.

“We have been involved in not only reviewing our current and new spending priorities, but, equally importantly, identifying savings, efficiencies and opportunities to generate additional income.”

Council tax is a major income source for the council.

Coun Stokes added: “Earlier this year we consulted with the public on three options for council tax for 2018/19 in order to deliver our plans and continue to provide the current services. Fifty six per cent agreed with a £5 increase, which we have built in to our budget. Despite this slight increase, we remain one of the lowest taxing councils in the country.”

Other revenue streams include income from the New Homes Bonus, freezing car park charges for the year ahead and a £2 increase in the charge for the green waste collection service - from £30 to £32 - for residents who pay online or by direct debit, or from £33 to £35 for those who pay by phone or in other ways.

Several councillors raised concerns about the use of the local priorities reserve to part fund the Big Clean and using the pension reserve to contribute towards employer contributions.

Coun Nick Craft said: “Looking at the list of projected savings, I feel that it is more wishful thinking than a realistic outcome. I have grave doubts about these savings.

“What worries me most is that we are intending to use our reserves on extravagant expenditure. This is not good practice.”

But Coun Peter Moseley added: “The budget shows a huge amount of ambition. It says that we are changing.”

Councillors voted in favour of a rise in council tax with 24 voting for the increase, five voting against and one abstention.

n East Northamptonshire Council also unanimously decided to increase its share of council tax by an extra £5 per year for the average Band D home, or 10p a week.

Steven North is leader of the council which covers villages like Easton-on-the-Hill and Collyweston.

He said: “We will continue to look for savings but due to uncertainty about future government funding and because we want to continue to invest in our communities, we propose a very small increase, which for a Band D property works out over the year at £5.”