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Council Tax in Swindon could be raised next year
COUNCIL tax could be raised by 1.9 per cent next year – the first time in three years – to help pay for services protecting some of the most vulnerable people in the borough.
The increase would see a £22 price hike for an average household.
Cabinet members were briefed on Wednesday night about the benefits of putting up council tax by 1.9 per cent.
A final decisdion will be made at the February budget meeting .
Coun Russell Holland, the cabinet member for finance, said the authority spends a large proportion of its cash on some of the most vulnerable people living in the area – residents who may not be able to voice their point of view.
There is currently a £1.2m funding gap for next year’s budget.
“If we increase council tax then we will have more money available to spend,” said Coun Holland, who represents St Margaret and South Marston.
“It is vital to keep in mind we do have a duty to care for the most vulnerable people.
“Many of those who receive our service are unable to advocate their position for themselves.”
He called on all councillors to deliberate on the decision, of keeping taxes low and not having more money to spend on these services or to raise them to generate funding, ahead of the debate in February.
If the council does not increase its tax it will receive a £750,000 grant from the Government.
But when this annual cash injection from the Government stops, Coun Holland warned the authority will be faced with a lower budget baseline than if it were to begin increasing taxes now.
Coun Jim Grant quizzed Coun Holland at the meeting about whether the £1.2m shortfall would have to come from frontline services.
Coun Grant said: “£1.2m is going to be extremely hard to find and will have to come from frontline services, when are you going to consult residents on these ‘£1.2m cuts?’”
Coun Holland said if the increase went ahead it would cover the shortfall.
If council tax does not rise the grant from the Government would cover at least half of the gap and the rest would not be too hard to manage.
North Swindon MP Justin Tomlinson said councils were always faced with hard decisions when it came to budgets.
“The council always has a very difficult job when it comes to juggling the need for more money against protecting some of the most hard pressed families,” he said.
“That said the Government has made it clear it will financial reward those council who freeze their council tax.”
This year has seen a rise in children’s social care due to the number of children using the service increasing.
Work completed for a new strengthening families project to help vulnerable children has cost more than £600,000
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