12:00pm Monday 25th February 2013
By Diana Henderson
POOLE residents could face a 1.95 per cent hike in council tax if the minority Conservative administration gets its recommendations through full council tomorrow.
It will be a numbers game on the night with Borough of Poole made up of 20 Conservatives, 18 Liberal Democrats and four Poole People councillors.
Council leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson will tell members that, unlike neighbouring Bournemouth, her administration wants to raise council tax to balance the budget.
It would mean a weekly rise for residents of 41p for a band A property, 45p for band D, rising to £1.23 for band H if the proposal is voted through.
“We are declining the government’s offer of a freeze grant, equivalent to one per cent of council tax,” she said. “The cap they have put on is two per cent.
“To take it would leave a deficit of more than £500,000 in 2013/14 and in perpetuity as this grant is for two years only.”
She said: “Even doing that we will still have the lowest council tax in Dorset.”
But not increasing council tax would mean having to find an extra £500,000 on top of cuts, savings and efficiencies, which have seen the £95million net budget of 2009/10 slashed by £32m over the last three years.
“We have had to find one third of our budget with on-going savings up until this point,” said Adam Richens, acting head of financial services.
“There will be more to come over the next few years.”
One in 10 posts has been cut, including those at top management level and continuing pressures on the council range from the ageing population to the baby boom.
Residents claiming council tax benefit will have to pay 8.5 per cent of council tax after the borough accepted a transition grant from government, while Bournemouth Council has set the figure at 20 per cent.
Cllr Atkinson has plans for that £500,000, investing it in growth. “I believe by investing half-a-million we can achieve match funding or more.
“Poole will benefit from about £1m,” she said.
Meanwhile she continues to lobby government over poorly funded Poole.
“We need lasting solutions, not quick fixes,” said chief executive John McBride.
“There isn’t a single solution to this problem.”
But leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition group Mike Brooke said they had proposed an alternative budget with a zero per cent increase, which he says still balances the books for the next two years taking into account the ‘freeze grants’ on offer from the government.
He told the Echo: “People are being hit very hard by just about everything at the moment.
“With the reforms to the council tax benefit system – where people not paying council tax before will now have to pay some – what we call the working poor, on a low wage and just on the margins of benefits, will be hit twice.
“We are saying that is unfair.”
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