VALE residents council tax bills could be set to rise by two per cent this year after budget passed its first hurdle at Wychavon District Council.
Councillors on the Executive Board voted through the 2017/18 budget proposals last Wednesday (February 8), which includes £280,000 worth of savings – although there won’t be any cuts to front line services.
Council chiefs decided against increasing council tax bills by the maximum £5 allowed, and instead the two per cent rise proposed will add just £2.35 a year to a band D bill. The council tax rise will generate an extra £114,000 for the council’s coffers.
The budget proposals also reveal how £79,000 will be taken from the council’s reserves fund to plug a gap in the budget.
And £500,000 worth of New Homes Bonus cash, which was going to be used for day-to-day spending, will now be used for investments instead.
As part of Wychavon’s cost saving drive due to Government funding coming to an end by 2021, further savings will be made this year. This includes £25,000 from efficiency savings, £40,000 from joint-working with Malvern Hills District Council, £40,000 from a review of management structures and £100,000 from joint waste and street cleaning services.
Wychavon is also planning to spend £550,000 on purchasing land adjacent to Evesham United’s football ground, although more details are to be released on this project.
The budget will now go to full council on Wednesday, February 22 where councillors will vote on the proposals.
Coun Linda Robinson, Leader of Wychavon District Council, said: “We recognise that sharp increases in Council Tax can put pressures on our residents and given we have a relatively strong position financially, we are recommending this small increase.
“This also means there are no service reductions being proposed this financial year.”
Responding to the budget proposals, Liberal Democrat councillor for Pershore, Charles Tucker said: “The Wychavon budget picked up on issues that the Lib Dems have been proposing for a number of years.
“Building houses – we proposed that Wychavon should do this two years ago. We suggested Wychavon uses its capital reserves to build houses, both to help meet the need for affordable housing and to provide a better return on capital than is available through the banks.
“Wychavon has substantial inequalities. It may be considered the third best place to live in England but it is also the third worst in terms of social mobility.
“Last year we proposed that Wychavon give financial guarantees to Credit Unions to help them provide finance to people on low incomes.
“I believe there is no place for complacency and we should be judged by how much we improve the lives of the least well off.”