CUTS and council tax rises hitting West Berkshire residents are only a temporary measure until business rates can be retained locally, says Newbury’s MP.
Richard Benyon made the claim at a public meeting held in Thatcham last week when he was asked what influence he had to reverse district councillors’ decision to cut services and charge residents more tax.
“I don’t feel they need influencing at all,” Mr Benyon said. “Not a single councilor wants to implement any of these cuts.
“They feel affronted that they are in a position to have to make cuts to vulnerable people and put up council tax.
“They kept it frozen for years; that goes against their DNA.
“The burden does not lie with them. They have managed it as well as they possibly can.
“This is a temporary hiatus. When we are allowed to fund this from business rates, they will be able to fund local services practically easier and restore some of the funding they have had to cut.
“Blame me, don’t blame them. We will crack this and it will be okay.”
Mr Benyon said that West Berkshire Council kept only 21 per cent of its business rates and that a bureaucratic move had meant that rates from Vodafone and AWE were being sent elsewhere.
The MP also said that discussions were being held over the shape of the six local authorities in Berkshire as to how they could ride out the funding crisis.
“I think our local authority area is too small for the services it should be providing,” he said.