Today Cabinet met to recommend the final draft budget to Full Council on 28th February.
From April 2009 to April 2013 (assuming the budget is passed at the end of the month) we will have raised council tax by 4.75% (in total over the four year period). I know too well the difficulty we have had in deciding how much more we can ask council tax payers to contribute, whilst trying to maintain and improve the services that the council provides. After all I’d rather that the 4.75% was left in your (and my!) pocket and not taken in tax. However, in my view, the cuts that local government is having imposed on it have left us no choice but to raise a little more from residents.
Clearly there are some decisions in this year’s budget that I would rather not have “signed off” to go to Full Council, but given that we need to make savings of over £10m, even after putting up council tax by 1.75% the proposed savings are, in my humble opinion, unavoidable.
Well, the residents who live in the Leigh-on-Sea Town Council area (including Blenheim Park Ward residents who also reside in St James (town council) ward – bear with me here!) also pay an extra charge/council tax (formally a precept) to Leigh Town Council (LTC). This year LTC are putting up their ‘council tax’ charge by 68% (yes sixty-eight percent)!
Looking at things over a slightly longer time period, from 2009/10 to 2013/14 as above, Southend Council will have put council tax up by 4.75%. LTC will have put their council tax up by 102%.
I am the first to praise LTC for the good work that they do – for example the skate park down by the train station and their attempts to boost the community centre, but with families struggling on pay freezes, unemployment being higher than we’d like and the general economic conditions we are all living through at the moment to over DOUBLE the amount you charge to Leigh residents is taking the P* to a new level.
Unfortunately the limit that Eric Pickles (the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) has set for a referendum (the greater of 2% or £5) on council tax does not apply to Town Councils.
I will be writing to the Chairman of LTC, their Town Clerk and the Town Councillor of St James Ward passing on my views of how outrageous it is to ask families to pay so much more at this time.