The Shadow Executive for the new combined Buckinghamshire Council set to launch in April this year has announced its draft harmonised council tax changes at a recent meeting - and inevitably there are winners and losers.
Under the harmonisation, Aylesbury Vale’s council tax will actually be cheaper at this stage (without accounting for other changes to precepts), but the same cannot be said for High Wycombe, where bills will go up to put the authority in line with other districts.
On 7 January the Corporate Finance Service Director, Richard Ambrose, said at the Shadow Executive meeting:
“The impact of harmonising at the weighted average level which is how it’s been calculated, for a band D payer, for Aylesbury Vale there will be a reduction of £3.90, for Chiltern there will be a reduction of £24.58, for South Bucks there will be a reduction of £1.28 and for Wycombe residents there will be an increase of £20.66”
It is standard practice to communicate council tax at the Band D level.
These changes are not all you need to add or subtract to last year’s bill however, as they only relate to changes associated to the switch to the new unitary council. Other increases have also been proposed, for example relating to Adult and Children’s Social Care.
The draft budget will go through a period of review and challenge by members of all the five councils via the Overview and Scrutiny Committee with the final budget to be announced at the end of February.
Councillor Martin Tett, Leader of the Shadow Executive said:
“Increasing council tax is not a decision that we take lightly but is something that all councils have to consider every year to keep up with the increasing demand for services and balance the books.
"The draft budget proposes to make council tax the same across the county which means a reduction for Aylesbury Vale, Chiltern and South Bucks, and an increase of £20 per year or 40p per week (for the average band D property) for Wycombe.
"It’s really important that as we come together as one council we have a fair and equal approach to council tax levels so that everyone contributes the same amount towards council services no matter where they live in the county.
“As the cost of living continues to rise and to make sure the new council can maintain essential services, the budget also proposes a 1.99% council tax increase. In addition, in line with the Governments recommendation to fund and support the increase in demand for social care services there is a further 2% increase specifically for Adult Social Care.
“It’s crucial that the new council sets off in as strong a financial position as possible in April. Our focus for 2020/21 is to come together as one. Like every council we have to balance delivering essential services in the best way possible for our residents whilst we’re facing the challenge of growing demand in areas like social care.
"I am confident that creating a unitary council will make savings that can be put back into protecting and improving services for residents, but this will take time, and we have to fund our current challenges and continue to deliver services for our residents in the best way possible.”