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Rushcliffe LibDems explain Rushcliffe’s ‘low council tax’ and why they don’t support an increase

Cllr Rod Jones, ward councillor for Musters comments on the council tax increase in Rushcliffe.

The Council’s Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Finance and Customer Access Cllr Gordon Moore said: “Cabinet agreed the proposed budget for Full Council of an increase below inflation for Council Tax, mindful of the current cost of living, to still remain the lowest Council Tax in Nottinghamshire and within the lowest 25% in the country.

 

“Despite having to manage inflationary pressures and the ongoing impact of COVID, the Council is not set to increase Council Tax by the maximum amount of £5 but £3.57 or 2.4% for a Band D household, less than 7 pence per week and unlike many councils nationally we have no debt to address.

“We do appreciate the financial pressures households are facing and we are committed to providing excellent value services for our residents.

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The authority said the move would mean it remains in the lowest 25 per cent of council tax charges in the country and the lowest in the county.

District and borough councils are allowed to increase the tax by a maximum of 1.99 per cent or £5 on a Band D property, whichever is higher, without having to hold a referendum on the rise.

Rod made the following speech at Rushcliffe’s full council meeting last week:

‘We appreciate the work of officers.  We recognise the uncertainties, and that staff and energy costs will rise. 

‘Our council tax is the lowest in Notts and low relative to others; a fact trumpeted without reservation or transparency about 3 factors which keep it low: 

1. There is a significant expansion of housing so many more people pay council tax – an annual increase in income by over 2% (2.33%) next year and similar each year before and after.  The Council saves expenditure by not tending the common areas on new estates, whose residents are obliged to pay extra tax to a management company. 

  1. Rushcliffe has many more properties at a high rateable value than many other Council’s.  So an apparently low charge level gives a higher total tax take. 
  2. None of the other Notts Councils have so many town and parish councils as Rushcliffe.  Other Borough Councils provide all or most of their services; here, Borough expenditure is reduced by dispersing costs to Parish and Town councils and of course to West Bridgford which has no Town Council.

‘In last year’ capital programme, we objected to the plan to take on a huge debt with external and costly borrowing.  So we are pleased to see that this millstone has been avoided for the crem and replacement leisure centre. It is notable that some help was received from the European Regional Fund.  

‘Over five million allocated for more social housing; it should be a priority to get this implemented given the need and the appalling increases in rent for private housing.  

‘On Sharphill, the Council has received £12 million and another £7 million to come from having done a questionable deal with a landowner. 

‘But what is being provided from that money by way of infrastructure in the area? £178,000 on a Community Hall on country park land. A needed facility in the wrong place on the edge of the estate. Late again to the Developer’s Party.

‘On charges set for West Bridgford, the Special Expenses Panel was told what the charges would be, it was not a choice of outcomes: which is a considerable increase in the Special Expenses Charge for residents. Part of the increase for residents is to even out the costs of past works in community halls and parks which the Council recharges gradually; but part of the increase is the result of the last years off-loading of the costs of Rushcliffe wide events – Taste of Rushcliffe and Lark in the Park from the Council’s budget onto West Bridgford’s Special Expenses. We are not satisfied with that.’

 

In conclusion: 

‘There is much to commend in this report but not all. We understand the arguments for increasing tax and appreciate the recommendations will be passed whatever we say. We question them.

‘We would like to see costs falling on the poorest reduced and the rating system more elastic to embrace millionaire properties.  Sadly, this archaic system is set by this Government.

‘The Liberal Democrat Group has supported previous rises in Council Tax but in today’s exceptional circumstance, we do not support this proposed increase in Council Tax (2.42%).  The income from the proposed increase in Council Tax is pretty much the same percentage as the annual increase in income from new housing.  Why not bring increases in green bin charges forward and make second and further green bin charges the same level as the 1st bin. There is no sale of assets. We need a proper travellers’ site to put an end to random fields being taken but why set aside £1million for that when it is surely a matter for the developer to fund and provide. Why plan to spend £¼ million on paving grass verges where people park cars, against other options?

‘In these exceptional times, it is not right to increase a tax when residents struggle to manage – especially those on modest incomes and pensions, those on short term contracts and the over 5 million people on Universal Credit, when combined with the benefit cap which has stayed the same since it was reduced in 2015 and the spare room tax on social housing. Even those who pay a reduced proportion of Council Tax are impacted by an increase in charges.

‘With escalating energy bills and private rents, increasing costs of materials and petrol, with more rises to come plus the increase in National Insurance, more residents will be pushed into poverty.  You may not know them, but others do. Families in increasing numbers turn to food and clothing banks and sell their assets. Now is not the time to add to the financial strain on residents facing a cost-of-living crisis.

‘For these reasons we do not support the recommended increases.’

 

 

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