Posted: 27.02.20 at 10:36 by The Editor
AFTER an emotive and at times heated debate with exchanges across the chamber, a majority of Thurrock councillors have approved a rise in council tax in the borough starting in April.
Residents in an average band D home will pay an additional 3.49 per cent to Thurrrock Council, two per cent of which is ring-fenced to provide for adult social care.
In addition the policing element of council tax will rise by 2.94 per cent, the equivalent to an increase of £5.67 a year from £192.96 to £198.63 for a Band D property. Essex County Fire and Rescue Service precept will rise by 1.99 per cent, the equivalent of an increase of £1.44 a year from, £72.45 to £73.89 for a Band D property.
The rise in cost of care was warmly welcomed across all groups who recognised the need to provide more care for a rapidly growing aged population in Thurrock.
However, there was dissent about the remaining 1.49 per cent slapped on to cover other aspects of the council’s operations.
Cllr Shane Hebb, portfolio holder for finance, said: “We have done something that 97% of councils in the UK cannot and approved a below inflation general Council Tax increase combined with increased investment in the key areas which we know matter most to the borough’s residents.
“Thurrock Council still has the lowest council tax rate in Essex and is in one of the best financial positions of any unitary authority in the UK.
“Our innovative investment strategy and prudential financial strategy means that Thurrock Council is in a sound position.
“Our investment strategy has brought in over £31m last year and we will receive £33m this year, money which we will use for the benefit of local residents while allowing us to improve services, keep council tax increases to a minimum and maintain a surplus of over £11m.
"We have a balanced budget until 2023 along with budget surpluses we will spend, penny-for-penny, on residents of this borough.
“Where many councils are cutting services we have invested in continued improvements including £1m towards new police officers, £670,000 to tackle anti-social behaviour, £500,000 for mental health support in local schools and £1.2m for environmental improvements.”
However, the Labour Party refused to support the increase and recalled the earlier report at the meeting (read via red button below) that showed the council was actually cash rich because of returns on its investments.
Labour leader, Cllr Jane Pothecary, said: “We cannot keep increasing council tax year on year at a time when wages are stagnating and the cost of living continues to rise.
“Therefore, Thurrock Labour opposes a rise in council tax an increase of 1.49 per cent. It doesn’t sound like much, but add to it the two per cent for adult social care and five per cent rise from the Conservative Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and band C properties will be paying almost £1,500 a year.
“If this goes through the increase in council tax since the Tories came to power will be almost 15 per cent.”
Last year, the council was one of few that made no increase.
Council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill supported the increases in payments to the emergency services, saying: "This year instead of a maximum increase the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner has decided to go for a much lower percentage as he feels with over 3,000 police officer, the highest since 2010, all he needs to do is increase to cover those costs.
“That works out at 11 pence a week for the average band D property. Taxpayers will be paying coppers for coppers.
“We’ll also see a three per cent a week increase for our fire and rescue service and I’m sure nobody will complain about a 3 per cent increase for firefighters who work tirelessly to make sure we are safe.”