Thatcham councillors approve tax rise
Two per cent increase to tackle reduction in grants
THATCHAM residents will see an increased council tax bill of two per cent from April.
Conservative town councillors voted to raise the precept by two per cent at a meeting on Monday. The increase will see Thatcham residents pay £654,870 towards the authority’s budget of £670,053.
The rise equates to each band D property paying £74 for town council services, up from £72.55 last year.
The town council budget includes provision for events, such as the family fun day, and £8,000 has been set aside for a new council website.
The town council vote came the same day that the leader of West Berkshire Council, Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) proposed to raise council tax by four per cent.
The hike is to help counter a government shortfall in funding as the district council seeks to find £18.9m worth of cuts in the next financial year.
Speaking at Monday’s meeting, Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) highlighted his party’s record of investing £60,000 in flood defences for the town, upgrading halls and parks and refreshing Thatcham Vision’s plan to help shape the towns future.
He also mentioned the Lib Dem plan to invest in the Priory for community use, which he said had government approval and public backing, but is now to be sold off for housing.
Mr Dillon said that the town council had achieved this without having to raise council tax and despite West Berkshire Council cutting its grant funding.
“Tonight we are being asked to support a budget that benefits from increased income in hall hire of nearly £20,000 but sees no investment in them or our parks and open spaces. No investment in the future of the town and asset stripping through the sale of the Priory.
“And yet despite these negative measures you are forcing residents to accept a two-per-cent hike in the council tax. Where are the savings?
“Where is the business-like administration that you promised the electorate?
“Not only are there no innovative ways to reduce costs, even worse the actual cost of running the council has risen by seven per cent.
“Now even your biggest claim to be the low tax party has been blown apart. You have cut investment and increased taxes.”
Mr Dillon was met with silence from the 12 Conservative councillors in the chamber.
“Is anyone going to answer that?” asked the town mayor, Sheila Ellison (Con, Thatcham North). “No,” Mr Croft replied.
Mr Croft later hit back, however, when discussing the Lib Dems borrowing “huge loans” to pay for the refurbishment of the Priory.
“Actually the biggest waste of money is paying interest on loans because it brings no value and brings forward debt,” he said.
All of the Conservatives present voted to pass the budget and raise the precept. Mr Dillon voted against.
After the meeting, town council leader Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said that the town council was facing a different set of circumstance from the previous Lib Dem administration.
Mr Crumly said: “I say we still have low tax. Newbury Town Council has increased theirs by more [4.6 per cent]. We are doing our best to keep tax as low as possible.”