Council tax freeze – but bills will still rise by £35

FREEZE - Council tax in Woking

WOKING’S share of the council tax will be frozen at around £204 a year in 2012-13.

But Woking residents will still see an increase as Surrey County Council approved a three per cent increase. Because of the county’s decision – and that of Surrey Police, which has also opted to raise its share of the tax by 2.5 per cent – residents will see their bills increase in 2012-13 by around £35.

In light of this, Woking council leader John Kingsbury was keen to get across his message that Woking Borough Council would not be the cause of the increase.

Introducing the council’s general fund budget to the executive committee recently, Cllr Kingsbury told the chamber that a council tax freeze was something he had pushed for and achieved.

He said: “This will be the third year of council tax at the same level, which is good news for Woking residents.

“The general approach to setting the budget has been to maintain or improve services, seek cost improvements and enhance the income base.

“I am pleased to say that we are not proposing any cuts to services – indeed there will be improvements such as the £30,000 added to the budget for the maintenance of Westfield Common.

“To keep council tax at the same level we will be accepting the one-off freeze grant offered by the Government for 2012-13.

“However, to recognise the short-term nature of this grant, we will transfer the grant into reserves.”

Cllr Kingsbury noted that the council’s reserves were now forecast to be back above the £3million mark, and that fees and charges had been almost all held at their current levels.

Questions

Liberal Democrat shadow portfolio holder, Ann-Marie Barker, replied: “Obviously we welcome a freeze in council tax and it is good to know that we won’t have to be paying any more.”

She also raised questions about the details of the report, including where the income from Thameswey Group activities was being spent.

Lib Dem leader Richard Sharp said: “I want to be very clear about this. The Liberal Democrats would also have brought forward a council tax freeze and would have given the instruction to officers about this at an earlier stage.”

He told the Conservative group that they should not claim to be the only party that could deliver low council tax and said the general fund proposal represented a ‘very similar’ one to that which his party would have presented had it been in administration at the council.

Cllr Kingsbury accused Cllr Sharp of ‘sour grapes’ and called his words a ‘peculiar response’.

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