Epsom and Ewell Borough Council voted to approve the 2019-2020 budget yesterday (February 19), which included a 2.99 per cent increase in council tax.

Councillors voted by 29 votes (in favor) to 6 votes (against) to accept the budget with 1 councillor abstaining.

The increase in council tax is the equivalent of 11p per week for the average band D property, while the council tax for this borough remains below the average for Surrey, Epsom and Ewell Council said.

Councillor Eber Kington, chair of the Strategy & Resources Committee, defended the council tax increase:

Cllr Kington said: "We receive no Revenue Support Grant from the government. However, through efficiency savings and income generating policies, once again we have been able to produce a budget which sees no use of reserves and no cuts to services.

Only 10 per cent of council tax goes to the Borough Council, which provides key services such as the weekly recycling service and the Community Well-being Centre."

The budget was set amid further government reductions to local council budgets throughout England.

Councillors also attributed the tax increase to the rising costs of disposal of residents rubbish and recycling.

While it was backed by the majority of councillors from the large Residents' Association group, the budget proposals were opposed by the fringe Labour and Conservative groups on the council.

In a statement released ahead of the budget meeting, the Labour group spokesperson, Councillor Kate Chinn, said that the provision for affordable housing in Epsom and Ewell has been neglected in favour of building more expensive homes most people living in the borough couldn't afford.

Cllr Chinn said: "Members must enable the building of affordable homes for people to live in, settle in and raise their families. But no! The local plan has been delayed and this council has not ensured the building of enough homes for the residents of the borough for decades. There has been a wilful disregard of the needs of residents and their families."

While acknowledging that the council's finance team had "done well" in the context of spending cuts, the Labour group also accused the proponents of the budget of electioneering, highlighting that further massive reductions were anticipated by the Council after the forthcoming local elections.

Cllr Chinn said: "We can support many things in this budget but as we approach this year’s elections there is a suspicion of electioneering. Buried in the figures we can see the council’s finances fall off a cliff in 2020, coincidentally after the residents have gone to the polls.

"It's clear that big decisions related to service cuts have been kicked into the long grass hoping that residents won’t notice and praying for a miracle to happen in 2020."

The official agenda from Tuesday's council meeting echoed concerns over squeezes to future budgets.

In the "Conclusions" section of the Budget and Council Tax Agenda, the Council acknowledged the following: "The Government is committed to undertaking two reviews of Council funding in 2019, the Fair Funding and Redistribution of Retained Business Rates reviews... both reviews pose a threat to current funding levels from 2020/21.

The agenda further highlighted "an increased risk to the Council’s funding position for 2020/21 onwards."