COUNCIL tax will rise by nearly four per cent in April after Worcestershire County Council voted through a £322million budget.
The hike in council tax will now mean the average band D home owner will pay £42 extra a year as the Conservative leadership at County Hall had their spending plans for 2016 approved at a full council meeting last Thursday (February 11).
The £8million raised through the rise will be used to ease the pressure on adult social care services due to the growing elderly population in Worcestershire and to support children in care.
Council chiefs are also planning to spend £12million on improving the county’s roads and £500,000 has also been earmarked for Droitwich town centre improvements, including resurfacing roads and pavements.
Coun Simon Geraghty, Leader of Worcestershire County Council, said: “The decision to approve the budget for the next financial year shows that this Council continues to be ambitious for this county.
“Worcestershire has the third fastest growing economy in the country and we believe that our future prosperity is in our self-sufficiency as a Council.
“The decisions that we have taken are shaped around those areas that our residents tell us are most important to them.
“We will be investing £12million into the roads closest to where people live and work through our Driving Home Programme.
“The 3.94 per cent increase to the council tax amounts to less than £1 per week for most households and will provide essential support to Worcestershire’s most vulnerable people.
“Any increase to the Council Tax is considered very carefully but we recognise that with more children coming into care and more elderly and frail people living in the county than ever before, this extra funding is essential.”
Putting forward the opposition’s alternative budget, Labour leader Coun Peter McDonald said his members would not have put the authority’s council tax precept up and instead would have dipped into the council’s reserves.
He said the Labour group wanted to ‘see an end to cruel austerity measures which were aimed at those least able to defend themselves’.
“There is an alternative to this continual austerity practised by the council, where those people on low incomes face ever increasing council tax for less and less services.
“The Tory Government has highlighted the fact this council has a staggering £112million of unringfenced reserves, yet it wishes to put more and more of its residents into poverty by imposing a four per cent increase.
“This means over a short period of three years an eight per cent increase has been imposed on the residents of Worcestershire.”
He added the reserves needed to be used now because people had had enough of austerity.
“The Labour Group wants to see some of those reserves used wisely on increasing services and a zero increase in council tax.”
He said investment needed to be pumped into youth provision.
“At the moment many young people are thrown on the streets and turned away from those youth centres that are left, because they no longer have the capacity.
“Unfortunately the Tory controlled council is obsessed with cutbacks and piling misery onto its residents without out a care in the world.
“The time has come to stop piling on the misery and use the reserves to give people a break from the crippling increases.
“The only way many residents can find these additional monies is by turning the heat down and cutting back on essential necessities.”