The recent years of no or very low increases to Council Tax are over. Residents in the Borough are now seeing bills land on their doormats for increases of around 3.5% as Council budgets come under pressure from cuts to the funding received from central government. With bills frozen from 2009 to 2015 and with a modest increase last year, the new charges mark a big change. Our Dear Leaders at El Brute have said that cuts in these government grants mean that savings of £31m need to be found to cover the shortfall in order to maintain vital services but increasing Council Tax forms part of the plan too. For a Band D property the hike will average out at 3.55%, comprising 3.99% for Richmond’s own council tax and 1.46% towards the Greater London Authority.
LBRuT Deputy Leader, Big Sam (that’s Geoffrey Samuel not Sam Allardyce btw), said “With unprecedented Government cuts to our funding, and increased pressure on social care, it simply isn’t feasible to freeze the tax any more. We now need to find a new way to deliver future services, working more collaboratively with our residents and partners. This will take time. The only way we can cover the costs of vital services for the next year is to raise Council Tax and the adult social care precept”. Some of the savings will continue to flow from the merger of Richmond and Wandsworth Councils’ operations functions, others are no doubt ‘tbc’.
The rise comes at a time when business rates continue to cause concern for many local traders and when newly announced National Insurance increases for the self-employed will add financial pressure to many already feeling the pinch.
So, are you happy that El Brute says it is raising Council Tax to protect important services or hacked off that you’re facing an above inflation rise after years of stable bills? Err, or both at the same time maybe?