Thurrock council taxpayers will have to stump up an extra £160 a year

By Neil Speight

16th Feb 2023 | Local News

Council leader Cllr Mark Coxshall.
Council leader Cllr Mark Coxshall.

THURROCK'S ruling Conservative group has proposed its share of council tax in the borough will increase by 7.99 per cent - the maximum it can.

Added to that figure is a 'ringfenced' adults social care precept of two per cent, taking the total to the maximum 9.99 per cent recently allowed by the government. Normally councils can only increase their share of council tax by five per cent.

Thurrock Nub News understands there has been significant opposition within the Conservative group who do not wish to impose the full levy possible. Senior officers reached out to opposition members to canvas their intentions as to what level of increase they would support. Nub News has been told opposition councillors have indicated they will oppose any increase above five per cent.

The cabinet meets next week after intital meetings on the cash-strapped council's finances were delayed - which in turn led to a delay in the full council meeting which gets to vote on the budget for the next financial year on Wednesday, 1 March.

It's been a tortuous few weeks for the Conservative leadership, as Thurrock Nub News has been told several members of the Tory group had indicated they would not support the possible total 9.9 per cent rise - which has been allowed by the government after an appeal from the council leadership as it bids to chip away at an operating budget deficit of hundreds of millions of pounds.

There have been a number of meetings of the Tory group at the town hall in a bid to thrash out the issue.

If all the Tory councillors vote for the rise it will be passed. There are 30 Conservative on the council, 14 Labour and five independents so it would mean a significant public revolt by Conservative members if the rise were to be blocked.

What would happen if it was blocked would depend on the government's reaction - the council is empowered by law to set a budget and if it can't agree one, the government might be forced to step in and take even more control of the council decision-making.

Essex Fire and Police precepts have already been announced. A Band D council taxpayer would typically pay an extra £14.94 per year for policing and an extra £4.95 a year for fire and rescue services – a combined increase of £1.66 per month.

Thurrock Council's precept and the adult social care money comes to an £2.77 a week increase for average payers, in total, an average council tax payer in the borough will be paying around £1,585.17 a year - an annual combined rise with the police and fire precept included of around £160.

Full details of the proposal for savings, council tax and spending have been published by Thurrock Council here: https://democracy.thurrock.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=129&MId=6309&Ver=4.

In a message to residents this morning (Thursday, 16 February) Thurrock council leader Cllr Mark Coxshall made no mention of the reasons for the significant rise – his groups's hugely botched 'borrow to invest' that has cost the council hundreds of millions of pounds.

Cllr Mark Coxshall says a hardship fund will be set up to help those struggling to meet increased council tax costs.

Nor did he offer any words of apology – indeed he championed Thurrock Council's status as a low council tax-paying borough. He did say the council would establish a hardship fund to ensure help is available for those who might struggle to pay.

Cllr Coxshall said: "As I have said since becoming leader, there are going to be tough decisions to make and this reflects the seriousness of our position. 

"For a number of years decisions on council tax have been avoided and now Thurrock is way below other comparative councils. But I have no doubt that this is the right thing to do if we are to recover from our financial position and put our budget on a sustainable footing.

"We have had historically low council tax rates in Thurrock and even if this increase is approved we will still have the lowest council tax rate in Essex.

"Over the last decade council tax increases in Thurrock have consistently been below the maximum allowable rate.

"Under our draft proposals the average Band D property will still be paying over £140 a year less than they would have had the full increases been applied consistently over the past decade.

"This low council tax base has significantly contributed to the council's current financial difficulties. The additional increase we are recommending this year is a course correction to help ensure a sustainable financial future for the council.

"We know this increase will be especially difficult for some households, so we are creating a new Hardship Fund to ensure help is available for those who might struggle.

"We want to make sure that there are safeguards in place to provide a vital buffer to prevent any household from being pushed into financial hardship as a result of the proposed increase."

     

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