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Council tax rise liekly in 2014
WEST DORSET residents should prepare for a rise in council tax as district councillors begin looking at next year’s budget.
They expressed concern at yesterday’s Executive Committee meeting that if the rate isn’t raised now it will lead to a ‘massive increase’ in the future.
Recommendations in a report put before councillors were approved as they agreed there are ‘challenges ahead’.
The report forms the basis of consultation that will be considered in February, when the council approves the budget and sets the council tax rate.
Although the report says the council remains ‘ambitious’, there are a number of ‘tough choices that need to be made’.
One of these choices, councillors said, would be whether to increase council tax.
The rate is currently set at £124.80 for a Band D property and is one of the lowest in the country.
Addressing the committee, Coun Alan Thacker said: “We do have to look seriously at the council tax situation, because it has been frozen for many years.
“If we let it freeze again and again we are eventually going to get into the situation where there’s no grant coming in from the Government and we will be looking at a massive increase, which will be a disaster.”
Councillors heard that when council tax was introduced in 1993, the authority’s overall share was 9.37 percent and this has now dropped to 8.14 percent.
The report, compiled by director of resources Jason Vaughan, adds: ‘Consideration needs to be given to an increase in order to address the longer term financial challenges facing the council.’ The maximum council tax can be increased without a public referendum is just less than 2 percent.
The report states that councils in the bottom quartile for council tax were able to increase it by up to £5 in the current financial year.
Coun Mary Penfold said although the situation is tough, the council needs to look at ways safeguard important public services.
She said: “It’s obviously going to be very difficult, but we are in a very strong position and I do hope we will be able to ensure that our good services continue.”
Among the agreed recommendations were to move funds from the Pension Reserve to a number of other areas.
The Pension Reserve, councillors were told, is no longer needed because pension costs are now covered by the base budget.
This means that the money can be invested into other areas.
The report also sets out the council’s ‘2020 Vision’ for how it will operate in the long term.
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