First council tax rise in six years is approved

Council tax rises
Council tax rises

The first rise in council tax for Hertfordshire residents in six years has been approved by the local authority.

Herts County Council has agreed the first increase in the charge since 2009 – which equates to 43p per week for the average band D council tax payer.

The 1.99% rise was decided upon today in response to financial pressures.

According to the authority, the increase will help close the council’s budget deficit – estimated to reach £66million by 2017 – over the coming years as well as fund investment in infrastructure.

Previously, the rate of council tax had been frozen for five years.

In order to meet some of the pressures – in part caused by an ageing population requiring more care – the authority says it has made savings up to £172million from its annual budget since 2010.

Staff numbers have reduced while savings are hoped to be made in other areas – including by cutting back bus subsidation as set out by a current consultation.

The county council’s cabinet member for resourches Derrick Ashley said: “We haven’t asked residents to pay a penny more council tax since 2009 because we know that many have struggled following the recession.

“However, with the economy showing signs of sustained recovery, we believe it’s time to ask for a modest increase in the amount residents pay to help prepare for the looming gap in funding we face over the next few years.

“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 amount of 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.”

Earlier this month the county’s police and crime commissioner revealed he would be freezing the police precept – the portion of the council tax bill allocated to the police force – for the sixth year running.

But the decision to increase the whole of the tax bill means that the average Band D household will pay an additional £22.26 each year – a rise from £1,118.83 to £1,141.09 annually.

Leader of the Opposition and the county’s Liberal Democrat group Stephen Giles-Medhurst said: “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 percent and also hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth.”

A recent survey of Herts residents conducted by the county council found 69% were in favour of a rise in council tax over any decrease in services.

Visit hertsdirect.org for more information.