WEST Berkshire residents are being “punished” by proposals to increase council tax by almost six per cent.
That was the claim from the district council’s Lib Dem opposition leader, Lee Dillon, this week.
Faced with a reduction in Government funding, the cash-strapped council is recommending to raise council tax by 2.99 per cent, with a further three per cent rise towards the adult social care precept on top.
The two combined would generate an extra £5.4m in revenue for the council and see bills rise by 5.99 per cent.
The Conservative-led district council said it had little option but to implement an increase for the third successive year, due to the “huge financial constraints” it was under.
It added that “all options” had been considered and if the proposals to put up council tax were not taken forward, it would have to find an extra £5.4m of savings.
The council’s executive member for finance, Anthony Chadley (Con, Birch Copse), said: “West Berkshire is facing huge financial constraints, as are all councils.
“This means that unless changes are made to the way we deliver services and income generated from sources apart from the government grant, more services will be impacted.
“Your council is adapting during the current financial challenges to help ensure that West Berkshire continues to be a great place in which to live and work.”
Mr Dillon hit back, saying: “The Tories played politics for years, offering zero percent budgets and are now in difficulty and punishing residents with bigger rises when wages are not going up at the same rate.
“The short-term political gain is coming back to hurt them and, more importantly, hurting residents and local services as their own Government strips away funding.”
Alongside the council tax increase, £5.2m of “savings and income generation” proposals have been put forward, including a £50-a-year charge for garden waste collection.
However, the proposed cut to core funding for Citizens Advice West Berkshire (CAWB), from £120,000 to £40,000, will be reduced.
After public consultation, the council has decided to reduce the charity’s core grant to £80,000.
CAWB chief executive Jan Rothwell said: “We are very grateful to everyone, particularly our clients, who responded so movingly to the council’s consultation on the proposed cut.
“Their responses are a testament to the life-changing work of our volunteers and staff.”
The proposed council tax rise follows a 4.99 per cent increase last year (1.99 for council tax and 3 per cent for adult social care precept) and a 3.99 per cent increase the year before.
At the same time, the amount the council receives from the Government through the Revenue Support Grant has been reduced to a £120,000, a 97 per cent reduction on last year, equating to a loss of £3.6m.
The council has been forced to make £55m savings in the last eight years.
The proposals will go before full council on March 1.