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Kingston Council leader defends tax increase
5:30pm Monday 21st January 2013 in News
Kingston Council leader Derek Osbourne has defended plans to raise council tax by almost two per cent, saying the hike is necessary to protect public services.
Council tax bills in the borough will rise by 1.99 per cent this year – an additional 52p a week for a Band D property, or around £27 a year.
The move comes amid further cuts to local authority funding from central Government, coupled with additional delegated responsibilities handed down through the Coalition’s Localism Agenda.
At a press briefing at the Guildhall in Kingston today, Coun Osbourne said: “We had a group meeting a few weeks ago and it would be fair to say one or two members of the group were against it, but the majority of people were saying we can’t carry on like this.
“We have got to protect services.”
Coun Osbourne said unlike some London boroughs, the council had opted not to freeze council tax as it has done for the past two years.
If it had, Coun Osbourne said, it would be forced to meet the cost of the freeze through charging low paid and unemployed residents on benefits.
That's because Whitehall has passed responsibility for council tax benefits on to local authorities from Whitehall, while cutting 10 per cent from the budget at the same time..
Coun Osbourne said: “Much of what we do is either a service like refuse and recycling collection, or protecting those people that need protecting - whether it’s children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, the elderly or all three.
“I don’t think people necessarily get that much of what we spend is spent on a relatively small amount of people.
“When people say what does the council do for me when it charges all this money, for an individual who’s fit and healthy and in their 40s it probably doesn’t look like a lot.
“But in fact they’re benefitting Mable, who’s got dementia and is trying to live at home and receives meals on wheels.
“That’s what people are paying for, and we have to continue paying for those people.”
Kingston needs to find around £3.7m worth of savings by 2014/15, in addition to the £14.7m already indentified.
That projection rises to £17.5m by 2016/17.
The council has appointed financial consultants Newton Europe to find £2.5m savings a year through efficiencies to adult care services.
If successful, the firm will receive a one-off payment of £1.3m.