Council tax payers face rises in their annual bills after Cambridgeshire County Council voted to increase their portion by almost £60 a year - or £1.14 a week.
The decision was taken at Tuesday’s council meeting when members discussed the budget for 2018/19 amid calls for unity in taking the council’s Fairer Funding message to Government.
Members heard that despite investing in a range of innovative and ambitious transformation and efficiency plans the council was still facing a budget gap of around £4.3 million in the coming financial year.
Councillors voted 34 to 23 in favour of adding 2.99 per cent to its share of residents’ council tax bills together with a further two per cent Adult Social Care precept - which sees the average Band D property having to pay £59.30 a year more.
The meeting at Shire Hall also saw discussion of the council’s bid to get fairer funding from the government, because despite being the fastest growing county in the UK, Cambridgeshire is the third lowest funded.
Members heard that if the county council was funded at the same rate as an average London bBorough it would receive £75m a year more in Revenue Support Grant from central government, and if it was funded at the same rate as an average UK county council it would be £13.7m a year better funded.
Council leader Councillor Steve Count said: “Cambridgeshire is a great place to call home, which is why so many people want to live here. Yet the success of the economy, one of the reasons for driving the growth, is also placing unprecedented demands on our services. In 2018/19 our changes to demography, pressures and inflation account for an additional £31m burden on our already stretched budgets.”
Council Tax payers face further increases as other local government bodies submit their own demands for funding for the coming year.
The police portion of the bill is set to rise by £12 a year - up from £186.75 to £198.72 - the increase comes following public consultation by Cambridgeshire Police and Crime Commission Jason Ablewhite, who asked residents how much they were willing to pay for policing the county.
A total of 3,268 people responded to the consultation. The result was that over three-quarters (78.3 per cent) said they were prepared to pay an extra £12 a year for policing. Just over eight per cent were prepared to pay a smaller increase of £4 a year while 13.4 per cent said they would not want to pay any more.
The extra money will provide 55 more frontline officers across the county, including in Fenland.
Mr Ablewhite said: ““A clear theme was that people were prepared to pay more if the money was spent on more officers that could make a difference. I can give my assurance that the additional money raised through this year’s council tax will be used to recruit 55 new warranted officers.
“This will not solve all our problems. However, these additional resources will enable the Chief Constable to increase front line policing thereby reducing pressure on officers, increasing the ability to bring offenders to justice and help keep people safe.”
Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue are also looking to put their precept up by around three per cent (the maximum allowed by the government). It will see the average Band D property paying £68.76 per year (up by just under £2 on last year).
On top of these rises will come the amount residents will have to pay to their town or parish council.
In March the news is good, the town council has agreed to keep the precept the same as last year, but in Wisbech residents are facing with a whopping 34 per cent increase to help pay for the council’s proposals for Wisbech Castle.
However, it should be noted the town council’s portion of the annual Council Tax bill just £57.87 - it was £43.16 last year.
Wisbech mayor Councillor Steve Tierney explained on his blog: “The additional cost to the occupiers of a Band D equivalent property will be around £1.20 per month. More than half of the 8,156 properties in Wisbech are in Council Tax band A; those households will face an increase of approximately 80 pence per month.”
In Chatteris the precept is set to rise by just over eight per cent putting the amount paid by Band D residents up by £3.42 a year - £45.86 compared to £42.44 in 2017.
Each parish council will set its own precept in some villages it is likely to stay the same or rise only minimally, or for some like Manea, it will go down.