A rise in council tax for residents this year
by SOUMIK SAHA
The increase in council tax stirred up a debate in Hillingdon the day after the virtual full council budget session last Thursday.
Council tax in the Borough has been hiked after ten years. The total rise is of 5.8% includes a 1.8% rise in direct council tax and a 3% reserve for Social Care Precept for the elderly (an increase of 1% due to the pandemic).
The total figure also includes a 1% increase in bills caused by the 9.5% increase in the precept imposed by the Mayor of London.
n an exclusive interview with the IKB Insider on Friday, Councillor Ian Edwards (Conservatives), Leader of Hillingdon Council, said the rise in council taxes was not only necessary, but also futuristic. Cllr Edwards explained: “We have been using our reserves to make ends meet, but as a responsible council we are also mindful about our overall direction. We’ll have to increase our general income base to make sure that we remain stable in the long term. The rise of 1.8% was necessary.”
Cllr Peter Curling (Labour), Leader of the Opposition questioned about the timimg of this tax increase. He spoke exclusively to IKB Insider and said: “Ten years of no tax increase is a good thing, but not a responsible thing to do. Had there been at least a 1% or even a 0.5% rise each year through the last ten years, we would have been in a better position. In that way when the pandemic has hit, we could have frozen council tax and other charges. In that way the people could have been saved from the extra burden during this pandemic.”
In an unprecedented move on Thursday, the council also froze all allowances of the members. When asked whether it was a political move, keeping in mind the elections which are due next year, Cllr Edwards said: “This has got nothing to do with the elections, it was an act of genuine concern. I am embarrassed to impose the 1.8% at a time when the people are going to be hit by a 3% Social Care and the high charges by the Mayor of London. It does not seem right that we increase our allowances when the people are finding it very hard to get by.”
The Council Leader’s concern was welcomed and seconded by Cllr Janet Duncan (Labour), Chief Whip of the Opposition and she said: “We are happy that the allowances were frozen this year because we feel that the people are suffering financially and we are uncomfortable taking additional allowances. So I agree with Cllr Edwards and don’t think it’s an election year thing. It’s a matter of ethos.”
The full council meeting that happened virtually this year was also welcomed by all. However, all the leaders that we spoke to agreed that a full council meeting happening in the council chambers creates more space for debates and hoped to get back to normal soon.