Major hike in Essex council tax revealed
TAXPAYERS in Essex are facing a "shocking" 16.7% rise in council tax – adding nearly £130 a year to the bill for Band D house, it has emerged.Essex County Council has issued the warning about its share of the bill, which does not even take into account the expected increases from district and borough council portions and that of the police authority.
By Annie Davidson
TAXPAYERS in Essex are facing a "shocking" 16.7% rise in council tax – adding nearly £130 a year to the bill for Band D house, it has emerged.
Essex County Council has issued the warning about its share of the bill, which does not even take into account the expected increases from district and borough council portions and that of the police authority.
Last night, Conservative Cabinet member for Finance and Resources, Rodney Bass, blamed a poor Government settlement on the predicted hike – which still needs to be finalised at a full council meeting.
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He admitted: "This council tax is far too high but the fact is that Essex has effectively been penalised by the Government.
"We are aware that Essex people want to keep the council tax as low as possible, but we also know that they feel that core services need to be maintained at a high quality level.
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"We have sought to maintain this balance in our budget, and have done all we can to convince ministers that Essex has received a poor deal.
"However, they seem determined to move funds away from the south east to the midlands and the north.
"Essex council taxpayers therefore have to pay more of the cost of local Government services, while the reverse happens elsewhere."
A 16.7% rise would bring Essex County Council's share of bill for an average Band D property to £896.40 from £767.88. District authority, parish and police levies will be added to the total.
Leader of the Labour Group on the county council, Paul Sztumpf, said: "The image of the Conservatives as a party of low taxation and efficiency is wearing thin indeed.
"The forthcoming Tory budget is likely to be a disaster."
Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Tom Smith-Hughes said the increase was "shocking" and that the Conservatives had "torn up their election promise to keep council tax low."
"They have lost all credibility as a low tax party," he said.
Mr Smith-Hughes admitted the Tories were right to complain about the "low grant" given to Essex by the Government and said Labour's claim it was "a superb settlement for Essex is exposed as nonsense."
But he added: "But the low grant does not explain all the council tax increase.
"It is also no excuse for the Tories wilfully misleading people at election after election claiming that they will keep the taxes down."
Earlier this month the East Anglian Daily Times revealed that Essex Police Authority had been looking at increasing its council tax bill by 25% and was also blaming low Government funding.
The authority chairman Robert Chambers said the rise was due to an increase in Government funding for the authority of only 2% which would not even cover wage increases.
The authority has now proposed a 19.9% increase in its share of council tax, meaning a Band D property would go up from £77.67 to £93.15 per year.
A final decision will be made at the Essex Police Authority meeting on February 10.
The county council budget will be discussed by the Cabinet on Tuesday and finalised at a full meeting of the county council on February 18.