Council tax rise ‘to support businesses’

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Aylesbury Vale District Council agreed on Wednesday to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent – 5p per week for a Band D property.

The increase is part of the council’s budget for the next financial year (2014/15), which aims to tackle the significant reductions in the council’s grant funding from central government while protecting services residents value.

The extra money generated (£166,000) will be ‘ring-fenced’ to support businesses in the district to encourage growth and job creation.

Although AVDC collects council tax on behalf of organisations such as Bucks County Council, Thames Valley Police and the Bucks Fire Service, it keeps less than £9 of every £100 collected. The rest goes to the other organisations.

Since 2010 AVDC has been forced to find savings of £5.7 million in its budget as a result of a 48 per cent reduction in government funding. With a further £1.2 million cut in funding expected by 2015/16, the council has had to review every service to see where money can be saved and new income generated.

A spokesman said there would be a £7.5 million funding gap by 2018 if changes are not made.

ACDC leader Neil Blake said: “In putting together this budget we have had to make tough choices.

“Stringent cuts in government funding meant that the council has had to budget to save a total of £2.4 million in 2014/15.

“We have sought to protect services by focusing on priority activities and services whilst generating new income and increasing efficiency.

“Increasing council tax was a difficult decision to make as we are all acutely aware of how tough it is for residents to pay their bills in the current climate.

“But equally we must do everything we can to support the local economy and create more jobs.

“The increase is very small at just 1.99 per cent which is an extra 5p a week for the average council tax payer in the Vale.

“We believe it is the right thing to do as the extra income generated will help to drive our economy forward.”

Mr Blake added: “By working extremely hard to look at every area of the council’s budgets, making savings and looking at how things can be done differently, we have managed to protect as many of the services as possible that are important to local people.

“We are also very aware the government’s on-going significant cuts in the funding of the council means that difficult decisions will have to be taken in the coming years.”

AVDC says the budget savings identified will plug a £2.4 million funding gap with a minimum impact on services.

This will be achieved through re-structuring services, increased income, use of the New Homes Bonus and further service efficiencies across the council.