REACTION to news that Thurrock residents will face an increase in their community charge of significantly more than five per cent in the new financial year has come from leaders of the borough’s two opposition groups.
At last night’s (Wednesday) meeting of the council’s Cabinet it was announced by Conservative councillors that they will be looking to take up a three per cent increase in the tax rate that will be solely committed to funding social care and in addition they plan to raise the tax by a further 1.99 per cent.
Police and fire service precepts on the tax are also expected to rise significantly.
Thurrock’s ruling Conservatives have outlined a spending plan of around £2.3 million that includes:
£1 million on roads
£500,000 on the Clean it, Cut it campaign.
£380,000 on tranpsort planning.
£250,000 on anti-social behaviour
Council leader Cllr Rob Gledhill said the spending plans were indicative of the positive future for Thurrock and ridiculed the previous Labour administration, saying: “They had a graph of doom, but we have a graph of boom”.
Speaking after the meeting Labour’s group leader Cllr Oliver Gerrish said: “It is very disappointing that Thurrock residents are being left to foot the bill for the huge cuts in Government funding.
“Frankly it’s shameful that the Tories have put Thurrock in this position by cutting grants to the council. We await the final figures on the total increases, but it does not look like being good news for Thurrock residents. With household budgets already under strain, there is more pressure on the way. The combined council tax increases and Police precept could mean an unprecedented rise in Tory taxes this year.”
Leader of Thurrock UKIP, Cllr Graham Snell
said: “So, the Tory administration has now announced their spending plans and the potential Council Tax rates for the next municipal year. These sort of announcements in the run up to budget setting are nearly always contentious and this year is no different with a mix of both good and not so good news for Thurrock residents.
“The £2.3M spending plan has to go in the good news column. I don’t think too many would question the need to spend money on getting Thurrock clean and tidy and keeping it that way, especially when the money used to do so isn’t coming from taxation but from a budget excess generated by the Council’s investment strategy.
“The same must be said for spending money on transport and anti-social behaviour, both have (for different reasons) been causing major problems for some years and it is right to focus on both; a move which will surely benefit residents.
“I do support this spending. Indeed, it is possible that none of it would have been possible without the support of UKIP during all of the many discussions and meetings that took place regarding investment strategy over the last year. Whilst the Tories are quite keen to crow about their success with having a budget surplus, they should be reminded that, in a Council with no overall control, they couldn’t do it on their own.
“The Proposed Council tax rises are another matter. It is proposed that we accept the full 3% available for Adult Social Care plus the 1.99% for Council Tax itself. Let’s be very clear about this: the 3% charge is only there because of chronic Tory Government under-funding of Adult Social care. The social care demands and costs are rising at a rapid rate but funding has not kept pace. In Thurrock, if we don’t take the rise, our social care services will suffer and that means Thurrock residents will suffer.
“We must not let that happen so we must take the rise that is on offer.
“The 1.99% is the maximum rise allowed by Government, this at a time when they are reducing their support grant year on year with the expectation that it will inevitably reduce to zero. For the majority of households in Thurrock, it equates to a maximum rise of 21p a week. This will be the sum argued over at budget setting. #=
“The police and Fire Authority precepts are out of our control but are expected to rise. Again, the Government has slashed funding to both and expect residents to pick up the bill instead. Sometimes I wonder what the Government is for if it can’t manage to properly fund the very services that protect us from the evils in this World!
“The Labour Party have expressed their concerns over the rises. It is right and proper that they do so but it is important to note that they have taken part in all of the Council Spending Review meetings so that none of this has come as a shock to them; though, judging from their press releases lately you might be led to believe otherwise.
“Ultimately, it will all come to a judgement call. Do we want to maintain and, if possible, improve Thurrock’s situation? If we do, we have to pay for it. It’s really as stark as that.”