‘What’s not to like?’: District council freezes tax and most charges

Neil Blake
Neil Blake

Council tax and most fees and charges will be frozen by Aylesbury Vale District Council in the next financial year.

A proposal by the authority’s cabinet to keep its precept at £136.35 a year for a Band D property (£2.62 a week), was approved at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.

The council will receive a grant from the government to support the freeze.

It needed to find £2.5 million worth of savings to balance the budget in 2015/16 and says the the majority of this was found through a review of existing services and structures, plus new income sources.

The shortfall is mainly due to the continued reductions in government grants.

Since 2010/11 the council has seen its government funding drop from £13 million to just over £6 million. It is predicted that the government grant will be removed completely by 2020.

There will be no increase in the majority of fees including planning, environment and health, contract services and legal and local land charges.

Prices of some other services will see a ‘small increase’ such as sports pitches and community centres.

For example, the cost of hiring most council-owned football pitches for an adult match will increase from £62.40 to £64.90, while hiring a community centre for a private party on a Saturday evening goes up from £162.50 £182.

However, charges at some car parks in Aylesbury have gone up significantly.

The budget also include a 1.5% pay rise for AVDC staff.

It was passed by the Conservative majority, with UKIP voting against and Lib Dems and Labour abstaining.

Lib Dem’s Steve Lambert called it a ‘pre-election giveaway’ with ‘more holes in it than Swiss cheese’.

Phil Yerby, UKIP, also accused leader Neil Blake of electioneering, claiming that council tax would rise again in 2016 and beyond.

Mr Blake responded: “What’s not to like about this budget? It balances, it doesn’t rely on using reserves, it does not put increased pressure on taxpayers and it provides staff with a well earned 1.5% pay increase.”

In a statement he added: “The last few years have been challenging and, as nationally, there is the ongoing need to address the structural deficit.

“I predict that the forthcoming years will continue to be a challenge.

“I feel that, as a local authority, we have effectively planned for a reduction in funding and have been able to meet the challenge head on.

“By 2020 we will need to find further savings of £7 million but, by working with our staff and members and embracing new opportunities, I feel confident that we will once again rise to the challenge, whilst continuing to deliver the services that our residents need.”

The total council tax for Aylesbury Vale residents will be formalised on February 25 when the precepts for Buckinghamshire County Council, Thames Valley Police, Bucks Fire and Rescue and town and parish councils are added to the total bill.