Essex council tax to rise by 4.2%

COUNCIL tax payers in Essex will be asked for an extra 82p a week in what is the second lowest ever year-on-year rise.

Elliot Furniss

COUNCIL tax payers in Essex will be asked for an extra 82p a week in what is the second lowest ever year-on-year rise.

The Conservative-run Essex County Council has decided to raise its share of the tax by 4.2% in 2008-9.

But rival political groups reacted with dismay at the announcement and attacked the above-inflation rise as “unnecessary”.

Council leader Lord Hanningfield said he was committed to keeping rises to “an absolute minimum”, despite the “perilous” financial position the council found itself in.

He said: “This is the second lowest year-on-year increase since council tax was introduced in 1993.

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“I am committed to keeping rises to an absolute minimum however yet again we are facing a perilous financial position because of a poor settlement from government and because of major pressures including care for our elderly and vulnerable - services that I am determined will not be adversely affected.

“In County Hall we are also playing our part in keeping bills as low as possible with a major £200million savings programme over the next three years.”

He also called for reform of the way services were funded in the belief that the present system, including council tax, had become “increasingly out of date and unfair” to those expected to pay it.

Paul Kirkman, leader of the Essex Labour Group, said the “unnecessary” increase would be “a burden” on the county's tax payers and claimed that rather than being in a perilous position, the council had a record amount of money in reserves.

He said: “The Tories are once again showing they cannot manage the county council's finances.

“They are increasing the council tax by more than the level of inflation and by more than neighbouring county councils in Kent, Suffolk, Norfolk and Bedfordshire.”

Tom Smith-Hughes, leader of the Lib Dem group, said it was another above inflation increase for residents, many of whom are public sector workers receiving just a 2% pay rise.

He said: “Council tax has more than doubled over the last 10 years and it is a particularly unfair tax. What we're actually asking for is better control of the council's spending.”

The council tax rise will be presented for agreement to the full council on Tuesday during a meeting at County Hall in Chelmsford.

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