A resolution proposed at the Stevenage Borough Council (SBC) Scrutiny and Overview Committee (OSC) on 21.1.2015, by the Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Robin Parker, that the SBC share of the council tax should be frozen with a 0% increase, at the SBC Budget meeting on 25.2.2015, failed to draw any support from any of the 9 Labour councillors or the one Tory who were present at the SOC meeting.
The suggestion of the freeze in the council tax was proposed by Cllr Robin Parker under item 5 of SOC for 21.1.2015, which lists the part 1 decisions of the previous day’s Executive meeting, at which under the Executive item 10 of 20.1.2015, the level of council tax increase by SBC had been discussed and a 1.9% proposed increase was agreed by the Executive.
Cllr. Parker said that each year, for several years, the Executive has recommended an increase, which is then suddenly reduced to zero on Budget night, by the majority Labour group, in order to grab ‘surprise’ headlines and to try and demonstrate how well they had done.
He said “The fact is that it would cost only about £50,000 to keep the SBC share of the council tax level. As the papers for the meeting make clear, this could be done by making a smaller contribution to SBC’s balances in 15/16. The papers also make clear that SBC’s balances are reasonably healthy at present.”
“I believe that the Labour group are likely to announce a council tax freeze for SBC on Budget night on 25.2.2015. Certainly they should do this. The SOC are perfectly entitled to make a recommendation to the SBC Executive on this, and I can only imagine that the failure by Labour members to support my call for the freeze was because they were under party instructions not to do so, in order that they can take the credit on Budget night. Or, possibly because they do in fact intend to increase the council tax.
“I cannot imagine why the Tory refused to support my call!”
- The total council tax in Stevenage is split approximately:
77% to Hertfordshire County Council (HCC)
13% to Stevenage Borough Council (SBC)
10% to the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC)
- HCC will decide their rise at the HCC Budget meeting on 24.2.2015. SBC will decide their rise at the SBC Budget meeting on 25.2.2015. The PCC has recently announced that his share of the council tax will not increase in 2015.
- The Coalition government has announced (as in previous recent years) that if local councils freeze their council tax this year then they will receive extra central government grant equivalent to a 1% increase in council tax. It is likely that any increase above 1.99% would be capped by central government. Therefore, the maximum advantage to SBC of a rise in council tax would be only 0.99%.