Council tax increase agreed by South Cambridgeshire District Council
South Cambridgeshire District Council has voted to increase its share of the council tax by 3.4 per cent.
The decision was taken at a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (February 23), where the Liberal Democrat-controlled council agreed its annual budget for 2021/22.
From April, residents of South Cambridgeshire will pay an additional 3.4 per cent in council tax to the district council.
The increase is the maximum the council can introduce without triggering a district-wide referendum on the change.
For the average property – band D – the district’s share of council tax will increase by £5 to £155.31 for the year.
Council tax paid to the district makes up a minority of the council tax bill, with the bulk of the funds going to the county council, and a share also going to the police, fire services and the parish councils – all of which have also increased their share of the council tax this year.
With all the increases factored in, the council tax bill for a band D home in South Cambridgeshire will rise to £1,971 this year, which amounts to an increase of 3.37 per cent.
South Cambridgeshire District Council anticipates it will receive around £10 million in council tax this year – roughly half its annual budget.
The council says it remains in the lowest 25 per cent of taxing district councils in the country.
The budget was passed and council tax agreed against the extraordinary backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Leader of the council, Liberal Democrat councillor Bridget Smith, said the virus has made “life really difficult” for the finance team as well as others, and thanked them for their work.
She said the pandemic and economic recovery has also “reaffirmed” the council’s priorities, of which she highlighted protecting the environment, supporting business, and ensuring the affordability of housing “for everybody”.
The council estimates that the cost of dealing with the pandemic so far has been approximately £2.35 million. This is mainly due to increased spending on PPE, additional staff members to help in several areas such as community response, processing business grants and council tax support and new software for administering grants.
Also, some savings that the council had envisaged making during the past 12 months have not been possible due to coronavirus, and income from fees, such as planning and licensing charges, has dropped.
The council has received £1.9 million in government grants to help it deal with increased spending due to coronavirus.
The council’s lead cabinet member for finance, Lib Dem councillor John Williams, said the year’s budget “is about continuing to give support to our residents and businesses to help them recover from the pandemic”.
He quoted the Local Government Association which, he said, claimed the government’s financial settlement for the year is “dependent on councils increasing council tax bills”.
Cllr Williams said: “The net expenditure for 2021/22 to be met from government grants, business rates, local taxpayers, is estimated at nearly £21.7 million. The probable out-turn figure for the current financial year is £25.2 million.
“To help bridge this gap, council tax payers are being asked to pay an extra 10p a week for the average band D property”.
He also highlighted the council has a council tax support scheme for those struggling to pay the bill.
Cllr Williams also raised concerns that the economic fallout from the pandemic is reducing the council’s income received through business rates, and that the council is planning to make savings and increase income adding up to £2.1 million this year as part of a four-year transformation process.
He said: “The local council tax collection rate has held up, and we thank council taxpayers for maintaining their payments. Despite the uncertainty of the economic situation, we expect, given our experience so far, that this will continue into the new financial year.
“But while the income from council taxpayers has held up, we have seen a hit on business rate income, and we have concerns that the long-term effects of Covid-19 in terms of business failures and property devaluation may impact on the business rate growth in this coming financial year.”
He added: “Against this background of less income from business rates and grants, the council is not just relying on more money from council taxpayers. To do our bit we have embarked on an ambitious four-year plan to transform council service quality, better realign our financial resources to business plan priorities, and improve customer service.”
The budget also includes a plan to increase the charge for additional green bin garden waste collections. The first green bin for a household will remain free, but the charge for an additional bin for collection will increase by £5 a year over the next three years, rising from £35 to £50.