Councillors approve council tax hike despite concerns over 'undue burden' for Slough residents

01:43PM, Tuesday 09 March 2021

Plans to increase council tax bills by almost five per cent in Slough have been approved despite claims the hike will place an ‘undue burden’ on residents.

Council leader James Swindlehurst outlined the local authority’s proposals to raise council tax by 1.99 per cent, alongside a 3 per cent increase for adult social care, during a full council meeting last night.

The Labour councillor said the coronavirus crisis had cost the council about £20 million due to increased care costs, loss of income from its leisure centres and reduced council tax collection.

Opposition Conservative councillors attempted to push through a reduced council tax increase of 0.75 per cent for 2021/22 but saw their plans rejected.

This means Band D council tax bills will increase by more than £70 to £1,490.30 per year.

Cllr Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) told the meeting: “This financial year that we finish now has been a year like no other.

“Given that Slough has been hit by particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic this has led to significant budget pressures.”

Slough Borough Council has been saddled with a £10million hole in next year’s revenue budget due to two one-off payments, including £5.3million in business rates which must be repaid to a Slough-based company.

Mr Swindlehurst confirmed at the meeting the Government has issued a capitalisation direction to the council, allowing it to sell off some of its assets to fund the payments.

Leader of the opposition, councillor Wayne Strutton, said the Slough Conservatives ‘fervently believed’ residents should not be burdened with a maximum council tax increase and suggested a rise of 0.75 per cent.

He told the meeting this could be achieved by measures including reducing the council’s reliance on employing agency staff, making approximately £3million in savings.

Council leader Mr Swindlehurst responded that the Government would not have allowed Slough to sell off its assets to fund the hole in its revenue budget if it did not raise council tax by the maximum amount.

Fellow Conservative Dexter Smith (Colnbrook with Poyle) added: “This council is not investing in Slough, it’s playing the market and speculating.

“Last year we bought an Odeon cinema in Basingstoke and a warehouse in Bradford. We were told these were good investments and we were told ‘look, we’ve paid off all our short term debt’.

“It was all smoke and mirrors really, alarm bells should have been ringing.

“This is what debt junkies do, they borrow money to pay off previous debts and then they have a bit more to spend.”

Further suggestions from the opposition included offering free parking in Slough town centre from November 21 to January 22 to try and revitalise the High Street and providing a further £100,000 for the provision of free school meals in 2021/22.

The council leader hit back at the free school meals funding suggestion, claiming the council spends £75,000 a week supporting vulnerable children and saying the Conservative’s funding would ‘barely last 10 days’.

Foxborough Ward councillor announced her decision to quit the Labour Party and serve as an Independent councillor while discussing the proposed council tax hikes.

She told the meeting she was saddened to see the council was pushing ahead with the planned maximum increase in council tax despite residents’ concerns.

The revenue budget for 2021/22, medium term financial strategy and capital strategy for 2021/22 were all agreed by councillors.


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