Bucks Council leader defends substantial council tax rise

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"We're facing a double whammy of less money and more demand"

Bucks Council Leader Martin Tett has defended proposals to increase Council Tax in the county by 3.99% in this year's budget announcement.

Following a cabinet meeting yesterday (January 6), the council released budget proposals for 2022/23.

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Estimates provided by the council show that the tax increase will cost Band D households roughly £64 per year.

Bucks Council Leader Martin TettBucks Council Leader Martin Tett
Bucks Council Leader Martin Tett

The council leader has defended the rises citing a loss of income caused by the pandemic, combined with increasing pressure on the council in certain sectors, specifically the social care sector.

Councillor Tett told the Bucks Herald: "We're still seeing income go down, because we're not receiving parking income or leisure income. Income we'd normally get from commercial or retail properties.

"That's just being hit very hard by Covid. At the same time the demand for our services is just going up. Particularly in social care for adults and children. We're facing a double whammy of less money and more demand.

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"We're looking at making some really big savings in inefficiencies, we committed to that when we went unitary. So there's a budget of £42 million from inefficiency and service reductions. There's a significant saving brought into this budget.

"But that still leaves us with a gap and that gap has to be filled by Council Tax. The council tax falls into two parts there's a basic increase of 1.99. That's across all services: roads, pavements, drains etc. And you have to measure that against inflation currently running at five plus per cent, so that's a pretty big gap between what we're increasing Council Tax by.

"And then separately there's a 2% social care precept that's being proposed by the government. That goes exclusively to social care, because the National Insurance increase only goes to the NHS in the first three years. And only in year four does it actually come to local government."

When announcing yesterday's budget the council stated it is continuing with major investment projects, while other councils are 'struggling to meet financial pressures'.

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Highlighting the continuation of road and pavement improvement projects which are ongoing across the county at a cost of £100 million.

Councillor Tett said: "When you look around the country you don't have to Google for very long to see councils like Slough - £300 million in debt.

"Northamptonshire was obviously very heavily bankrupt a few years ago. Croydon and Peterborough as well. So there's a few councils that are getting into some really deep financial problems at the moment.

"I think we are a very prudent, and well run financial county. So we were able to continue to focus on some of the things that were in our manifesto when we were elected.

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"There's £100 million going on roads and pavements which is always a big priority for our residents. We've committed to cleaning any drain in the county this year, and we're going to do the same again next year.

"There's more money for litter picking again this year, so we're going to stop the roadside verges being filled with kebab boxes and all sorts."

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