Stafford Borough Council has agreed a 1.9 per cent rise in the tax residents pay for services such as bin collections and park maintenance.
Staffordshire County Council is increasing its tax by 4.99 per cent, which includes a three per cent rise towards funding social care costs, while the bills for police and fire services will go up by 5.99 per cent and 1.99 per cent respectively.
These increases mean that during 2021/22 Band D households will pay £1,360.62 to Staffordshire County Council, £163.30 to Stafford Borough Council, £238.57 towards Staffordshire Police and £78.78 for fire and rescue services. Those living in an area covered by a town or parish council will also pay a precept to that organisation.
Stafford Borough Council confirmed the total tax bills for residents at a full meeting on February 23, where 28 members supported the proposals and 11 abstained. Concerns were raised about increasing council tax at a time when some residents were facing financial challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the level of support given to local authorities by central Government.
Councillor Aidan Godfrey, leader of the Labour opposition group, said: “I think it’s a great shame the council tax has to rise in these troubled times, People will be experiencing hardship, job losses and more money worries than they’ve probably had for a long, long time.
“If better care had been taken by this Conservative administration of the council’s funding in the recent past this maximum increase in council tax – coupled with the much-disliked brown bin tax – may not have been necessary.”
Green Party member Councillor Tony Pearce said: “The council is quite right in having some pride in keeping council tax down to what could be considered to be a reasonable level for the borough of less than two per cent. But of course what people look at when they get the bill is the overall amount and the overall increase. That’s much nearer to five per cent.
“You may say ‘oh well, that’s the county, nothing to do with us’. Well, yes and no – the county would say ‘oh, it’s the Government not giving us the money.’ Of course they’d be right – there has been a severe cutback in the amount of funding going to local authorities generally and to the county council in particular.
“In order to maintain essential services they’re having to put up the council tax by what for many people would be considered to be an unacceptable amount. I’m not just having a bash at the Government, although they have to carry responsibility in this situation, particularly at a time when so many people are struggling financially. It’s a much deeper problem than that.
“Governments of differing political views have ignored the need to give local government a sustainable and viable form of finance. And I think that is a real tragedy because that really limits what local government can do.”
Councillor Mike Smith, cabinet member for resources, said: “Despite the setback caused by the pandemic we have not reined back our ambitious plans to improve the borough, or at least our major town. The budget discussed at our last meeting showed an increase in the borough portion of the tax of 1.9 per cent and that takes the Band D from £159.27 to £162.30 – an increase of £3.03 a year.
“We are the billing authority not just for ourselves, but the county council, police and fire service and the parish councils. Because we’ve kept a lid on our increases over the years our portion of the total council tax bill has dropped from 11.2 per cent in 2003 to only 8.82 per cent now.”
Council leader Patrick Farrington said: “It’s a cake and eat it argument – if we increase council tax it’s a great shame according to our opposition spokesman. But in previous years if we don’t increase council tax we’re criticised for not having a strong economic base.
“I remind this meeting of the pledge we have steadfastly adhered to since we were in office from 2003, which is to keep council tax at or below the rate of inflation which we have done, and at the same time increasing and sustaining the levels of service to our local people.”