Residents face council tax increase

A HIGHER council tax bill is on the cards for residents after councillors approved a rise on Tuesday.

The North Herts precept could go up by 1.9 per cent, after the district council’s cabinet voted to recommend the increase to full council.

The proposed increase is equivalent to seven pence extra a week – or £3.74 a year – for a Band D property.

When discussing the move, cabinet members said they did not wish to propose the increase but could see little choice.

They claimed they were being pushed into raising money through cuts from central Government.

Royston district councillor Peter Burt said: “I’m not terribly happy about increasing council tax.

“In effect, we’re being pushed into it by the coalition, because if we don’t do it, we will end up in considerable trouble.”

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Cllr Terry Hone, finance portfolio holder, added: “We are looking to protect our assets to give the sort of services North Herts deserves.”

Full council will make a decision on February 13, when it sets the budget for the year ahead.

If approved, the changes will come into effect in April, as the new tax year starts.

South Cambridgeshire District Council, which has frozen its precept for the last three years, has yet to announce its intentions for 2013/14, but is set to do so early next month. Royston Town Council has already approved a rise of 4.8 per cent, or £2.08 a year for a Band D property.

Meanwhile residents in North Herts who receive council tax relief are to have their benefits cut, potentially losing out on hundreds of pounds a year.

Those entitled to the benefit will see an average loss of £5.62 a week. Pensioners and people with disabilities are exempt. Around 3,500 people will be affected.

The move follows cuts from central Government, which is localising services under the new Council Tax Reduction Scheme from April onwards.

Cllr Hone said: “By localising council tax support at the same time as reducing the subsidy we receive, the Government have asked us to make an incredibly tough decision.

“We will be letting people know what the new scheme means to them, including writing to everybody affected in the next couple of weeks.”