Council tax bills to go up 4.7% in Slough in bid to protect adult social care

Reporter:

James Hockaday

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A 4.71 per cent council tax bills hike aimed at protecting adult social services was approved at a Slough Borough Council (SBC) meeting last night (Thursday).

The increase for the new financial year, starting in April, is expected to earn the council £52.50m, compared to £48.69m last year.

The hike is based on the Government’s precept, allowing councils to increase council tax bills by an additional 3 per cent which will be ring fenced for adult social care services.

This breaks the norm of councils having to hold a referendum to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent or more.

Including Government grants and other income sources, SBC expects to have £100.48m available to spend in 2017/18.

Councillors broke protocol at Thursday’s meeting and agreed not to debate the budget before voting.

This was in light of the death of Councillor Darren Morris (Con, Haymill and Lynch Hill) that morning.

Several emotional tributes praising the 48-year-old were given from both sides of the chamber.

After the meeting, on his online blog, SBC leader councillor Sohail Munawar (Lab, Elliman) posted his planned speech on the budget.

He said: “Despite being faced with 80 per cent cuts to our Government grant and as a result having to find 12.4 million of savings, I am presenting a budget which balances, is realistic, and as I said, is fit for purpose.

 “We have to take some difficult decisions on savings and increased fees and charges. But in doing this we will not be cutting front line services.”

An estimated £475,000 is expected to be saved from bringing the borough’s environmental services in-house this year as well as from many ‘back office’ savings.

Increased council fees will include up to 20 per cent rises in funeral-related fees and 1 per cent rises in leisure facility charges.

Slough Conservatives deputy leader Councillor Rayman Bains (Con, Upton) said the budget ‘unfairly targets hard-working residents of Slough.’

He added: “The council are discouraging people using leisure facilities by increasing their costs, whilst the council spends more and more money on solving the town's huge obesity and diabetes problems. 

“The budget targets those who are mourning loved ones with a 20 per cent increase in burial charges whilst those with surplus income who can afford to develop and extend their houses are spared.”    

He said SBC has not priced plans to move Amey’s environmental services in-house which he says will cost the borough millions.

He previously warned the move would be one of Slough’s ‘biggest policy disasters.’

The meeting took place at The Curve in William Street.

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