Questions raised over council tax freeze

By Rob George Friday 08 February 2013 Updated: 08/02 12:37

INCREASING council tax by nearly two per cent could raise almost £400,000 over the next five years and help fill Worcester City Council's budget blackhole.

Council officers revealed a 1.99 per cent rise every year from 2013/14 to 2017/18 would bring in £371,000 for the council, more than its expected £250,000 budget shortfall next year.

But the council's Conservative cabinet has already pledged not to raise its share of the bill this year and highlighted the £50,000 given to it by the Government for opting to freeze it.

The figures were discussed at a meeting of the performance management and budget scrutiny committee on Tuesday (February 5) during a debate on the council's budget for the next financial year.

If the council opted for the rise the average homeowner in a Band D city property would see their council tax go up by £3.23 this year and by a total of £16.78 on its current level by 2017/18.

According to the council's own projections, Band D homeowners would be asked to fork out around £30 a year extra if other bodies who make up the overall bill, including Worcestershire County Council, requested a similar rise.

But Labour's finance spokesman Coun Richard Boorn said the cabinet's decision not to increase council tax seemed to be politically driven.

"If we went down that road we would have covered the shortfall we have and would not have to look at cutting services or commissioning," he said.

"Why does the cabinet believe we should freeze the council tax based on the evidence we have been provided with this evening?" Coun Boorn added.

Speaking after the meeting, council leader Simon Geraghty (Cons, St Clement) said: "My own view is that it's clear Labour are looking for any excuse to force up council tax in Worcester.

"I believe the city should live within its means and I don't think the majority of people in Worcester would support an increase in council tax during what are tough economic times.

"We don't need to put the council tax up, we have balanced the books for the next financial year with the measures we have already taken."

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