Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Survey reveals public view of council tax rise

Results of a public consultation on how West Berkshire should spend its money have revealed most people want council investment in adult social care, education, roads and transport.

A recent budget meeting voted through a 4.99 per cent council tax increase.

There was a split of views on council tax changes with 44 per cent of people agreeing or strongly agreeing with a five per cent rise and 41 per cent disagreeing or strongly disagreeing. 

“At this time of strain for households increases should be avoided,” said one respondent.

“Five per cent is far less than current inflation and so this is necessary. Council tax is good value for money,” said another.

There was clear disagreement in support of a council tax increase of 10 per cent based around cost of living.

Twenty eight per cent of respondents did support the proposal, with some of these proposing greater grading of council tax bandings.

“We have childcare costs going up to £8.55 an hour in the new year. This is to enable us to work full time. Raising council tax would not be helping me with current cost of living pressures,” said one respondent.

“With the cost of everything else rising I believe the council should do everything they can to avoid adding to the pressures of local residents rather than increasing council tax by this amount,” said another.

The council also consulted with businesses. 

There was a higher value placed on economic development and regeneration, which was second highest for business representation.

In respect of council tax, there was quite a marked difference with the overall population, with no overall support for council tax rises of five or 10 per cent.

There was also lower levels of support for inflationary uplifts in fees and charges, with an overall majority not in support. 

In respect of investing in net zero, there was also much lower support than the overall responses, with a majority (56 per cent ) in support of not continuing to invest in projects to achieve carbon neutrality.

“My business has to go through planning to open much needed new sites and it takes an incredibly long time, the process is tied up in red tape and is unnecessarily difficult. As soon as we open we pay business rates and contribute back, if this process was quicker and smoother more business would be able to pay business rates quicker increasing the council income,” said one.

“Please do more to support businesses struggling on the high street, especially with rateable values changing in April,” said another. “Those who have done well to survive the pandemic and the beginning of the cost of living crisis will be penalised the most for their hard work. The high street is dire as it is and without help, particularly for small independent businesses, it’s going to get worse. These businesses are people’s entire livelihood and the council should finally step up and support them. Without these businesses, West Berkshire is nothing.”