Rushmoor council tax frozen for third yearBy Tim Harris
March 01, 2013
COUNCIL tax will be frozen in Aldershot and Farnborough for another year, but vulnerable residents in the borough could still be ‘penalised’.
Rushmoor Borough Council voted to freeze its share of the council tax bill for a third consecutive year, so the tax level for residents in the coming financial year will remain the same.
For a Band D household the amount of council tax paid to Rushmoor will remain at £184.
The borough agreed its share of the council tax last week. Councillor Keith Dibble, the Rushmoor Labour party group leader said while the tax will be frozen, the opportunity to soften other costs in the borough had been missed.
He said Rushmoor’s blue badge parking charge should have been removed in the budget, along with a freeze to cremation charges.
“We oppose the budget,” said Cllr Dibble. “I think the council has not distributed the budget as fairly as they could have done. The budget will penalise the most vulnerable and those on the lowest income – and that is unfair.
“We do not disagree with Rushmoor for freezing council tax, I think we would just have taken a different view on how the money has been allocated.
“Of course the budget is for the whole borough and there are certain elements we support, but as a whole package we thought it was unfair.”
Council leader Peter Moyle hit back at criticism and underlined the need to be ‘fair across the board’.
He said: “It is about being fair to more people. In spite of the current economic climate and pressures on services, we have been able to keep council tax at the same level for a third year while maintaining our key frontline services to residents.
“We are continuing to look at where we can make savings and increase income. The Labour group should have come up with their own budget and come up with their own ideas. We would have listened.”
Nearly 90% of council tax bills is made up of contributions to Hampshire County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire and the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Authority.
The county council and the fire authority will also freeze their council tax charges, but Hampshire Police has agreed an increase to its share that residents will pay towards policing, with a rise of 3.4% – more than the rate of inflation.
Rushmoor will receive around £59,000 from the government as a one-off grant in exchange for the tax freeze, which is the equivalent of a 1% increase in council tax.
The beginning of the new financial year will see the national abolition of council tax benefit and the introduction of a new support scheme in Rushmoor. It will mean working age residents in the borough who receive council tax support will have to pay a minimum of 8% towards their council tax bill.
“It is penalising the poorest,” added Cllr Dibble. “If you haven’t got any money and you are forced to pay 8% of your council tax it will have an impact.”
Cllr Moyle said the authority had been as ‘fair as possible’ in replacing council tax benefit, and pointed out residents in neighbouring Surrey Heath who receive council tax support will have to pay up to 30% towards their council tax bill.