Eden Council’s executive last night voted in favour of continuing with a plan to impose a tax hike which would see the annual bill for a Band D property in the district rise by £5 – despite strong calls not to.
Gordon Nicolson (Con, Lazonby), a member of the council’s budget planning committee which last week voted against the proposed increase, said: “I really fail to see the justification for this (council tax rise).
“The amount generated is just over £100,000 which is set against a net expenditure of about £7.6 million. I really don’t think we should do this.”
He had recommended that the executive should not endorse an increase in council tax, which the committee had agreed with, by five votes to four, but that did not sway the executive’s decision to continue with a planned consultation to implement a 2.6 per cent council tax rise for 2021-2.
David Ryland (Ind, Hesket) said he was unhappy with the proposed increase in council tax, saying it was the wrong time to be imposing such a rise, while Sandy Lancaster (Ind, Kirkby Stephen) said it was not something which the authority needed to do.
She said: “We work on behalf of our residents – they’re struggling enough as it is. There are other ways of making income, we do not need to do this. It is a drop in the ocean for us.”
Phil Dew (Con, Kirkby Stephen) said: “This is not the time to be increasing council tax in principle. It is a relatively small amount of money for the council, but for residents who are struggling at the moment it could just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
However, Mike Eyles (Lib Dem, Penrith) said: “The council does need to raise funds with which to continue and spend money for the benefit of residents and if we don’t raise council tax this year it does have an impact on every other year because the actual taxbase is reduced by that amount.
“Quite honestly, to be able to maintain our services, I think we do need to maintain an income stream. We are already looking at having to close public toilets, which I have never agreed with.”
Eden Council leader Virginia Taylor said the budget scrutiny group’s comments would be considered along with all those the authority is set to receive as part of a month-long consultation with residents, which is set to begin today.
All responses will then be evaluated ahead of a meeting of full council on 25th February, where the final budget proposals will be decided.
The current level of council tax for the Eden district part is £195.75 for a band D property.
The band D council tax was increased by £5 (2.6 per cent) in 2020-21.
Karen Greenwood (Ind, Appleby) resources portfolio holder, told last night’s executive meeting the COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a major impact on the council’s budgets and medium term forecasts.
“This budget is set in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen council operate through three lockdowns – in response mode, recovery mode and back again.
Council priorities this year have been to identify what can be done and delivered from the corporate plan, the recovery plan, business as usual and the extraordinary business which has been tasked to us from Central Government,” said Mrs Greenwood.
The proposal to raise the council tax by £5, which is to be included as part of the budget consultation, but the 2.6 per cent tax hike would cost a band D taxpayer less than 10p per week, councillors were told in a report.
Neil Sutton, interim director of corporate services, said the coronavirus pandemic has had the effect of increasing local council tax support and reducing the amount of council tax income it had received in the current financial year.
That is expected to offset the level of growth increase from additional properties from within the taxbase, which is estimated to remain at the same level as 2020-21at 20,741.