Council Tax to go up by 3.5 per cent in South Hams
A COUNCIL is set to raise council tax by 3.5per cent – but will not be forced to hold a local referendum.
South Hams District Council, faced with balancing its budget and plugging a £479,000 funding “black hole”, yesterday decided on its inflation-busting increase.
A spokeswoman said the increase came in the wake of a much reduced Government grant this year.
“In order to protect frontline services and those on low pay South Hams has decided reluctantly to raise its council tax for an average band D home by 9p a week.
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“This amounts to a £4.83 increase on an average Band D property over a year.”
The Government has said that councils raising tax by more than 2per cent must hold a local referendum.
South Hams is one of the few councils being allowed to escape the referendum because of its past successes in keeping its council tax low.
Council leader John Tucker said: “In the next two or three years it is going to be much more difficult to balance our budget.
“We will need efficiency savings of around £720,000 for 2014-15. But at the moment our surveys show our council taxpayers wish for us to maintain front line services and protect the low paid.
“We are also putting money back into reserves to provide affordable housing, facilities for the disabled, and for vital capital projects like keeping the Dartmouth Lower Ferry running which last January alone carried 10,025 foot passengers and 18,689 vehicles.”
The council has removed its second homes discount to divert cash to the council tax support scheme.
The spokeswoman said South Hams Citizens Advice Bureau will get £20,000 above its agreement to bring the charity’s total grant to £62,000 this year.
CAB works closely with the council’s housing and benefits team to help provide independent debt and benefits advice to residents.
Charges in council-owned car parks have been frozen for the third year running.
In its bid to save £80,000 the council has agreed plans for a four-month seasonal closure of underused toilets from October next year. 2014
With agreement of the town or parish councils the toilets may be closed earlier – or taken over and kept open by the parish or town if they wish. Yearly running costs vary from £1,000 to £50,000.
As an early pioneer of sharing services from 2007 with West Devon Borough, South Hams has already saved £2.15million – at a continuing rate of £700,000 a year.
Cllr Tucker added: “We are mindful of those vulnerable people and those on low pay who will be affected by our council tax increase, but anyone struggling to pay their council tax can call the council and we will help them as much as we can.”