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Maximum council tax rise needed in fast-growing county, say Tories

By Ben Comber

Cambridgeshire County Council tax bills are going up 4.99 per cent from April

Council tax will rise by the maximum margin possible as county councillors voted to impose a 2.99 per cent rise in addition to a 2 per cent rise to the adult social care precept.

It means the county element of the council tax bill for a band D property will increase by £59.40.

It is the first time in three years than the county has raised council tax.

While there was agreement that tax should be raised by the maximum, the opposition did not agree with Tory plans to create a Smoothing Reserve, a pot of cash to be saved for the future.

The budget was carried by 34 votes to 26, with no abstensions.

Leader Cllr Steve Count said:"We are the fastest growing county in the country. This means demand for the services we provide, from road maintenance to social care, is sharply increasing."

He said the decision to raise council tax was not taken lightly.

"It was done only in the full knowledge that we are an efficient and low cost-based council.

Liberal Democrat leader Lucy Nethsingha said the money raised should be put into services.

"The need to support our public services is urgent,she said.

"These budget proposals do nothing to halt the decline in the level and quality of our public services."

She called the smoothing fund a"Tory slush fundfor"heaven knows what"."This seems a particularly appalling choice when this money could so clearly be used to save services which are so hugely valued and much-needed - like children's centres,she said.

Both the city and South Cambridgeshire District Council are expected to raise tax by the maximum £5 for a band D property.

Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite has announced a rise of £12 a year to council tax which will fund 55 new warranted police officers. A consultation showed 78.3 per cent of people were in favour of the rise.

Mr Ablewhite said:"These additional resources will enable the chief constable to increase front line policing thereby reducing pressure on officers, increasing the ability to bring offenders to justice and help keep people safe."

The fire service is considering a 3 per cent rise. It says a 2 per cent rise would protect frontline services but the extra 1 per cent, which would mean an extra £2.01 for a band D property amounting to an additional £562,000 for the authority, would mean training could be improved.

The rise will be decided today (Thursday February 8).

The mayor of the combined authority, created last year, also has powers to raise council tax but has indicated no intension to do so this year.


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