Friday, March 11, 2011

No balls for a referendum

The Conservative run HDC has been running high quality services at low cost because they have demolished reserves to prop up the budget. This has to end because reserves are running out and the Conservatives are going to problems over the New Homes Bonus they have nicked from the areas that are taking development.

I have calculated underlying Council tax rate needed to fund services after cuts taken from the summary provided to District Councillors.
I have added up the amount from the "Shortfall met from reserves" - £3.6 million, "New Homes Bonus" - £0.9 million which come to £4.5 million shortfall. This make a total of an extra £75.50 rise in Band D Council Tax if neither was used. Stopping the proposed savings of £3 million would increase the Council Tax an extra £50.34 on top of the £75.50. This makes a total of £125.84 extra or just over a 100% increase in Council Tax.

In year 2012/13 the situation gets even worse. Including the savings still required the total would be before proposed savings a total £5 million. An increase of £87.73. If the proposed savings were added in this would mean a total of £9.3 million. An increase of £155.73.

This just get worse year after year. If HDC wants to get the finances back in order it needs to up Council Tax to achieve this. By 2015/16 HDC will need an extra £5.7 million to properly balance its budget. A massive £12.6 million if cuts (£6.6 million) are to be avoided. On the £137.06 council tax figure this would add an extra £93.01. If cuts are to be avoided that would add an extra £107.69. Making a total Council tax rate of £337.76.

This sounds alarmist. It is not meant to be. But taking the figures the rate of Council Tax should be at £250 per Band D property and we are paying at £124.17. That is the fundamental problem. HDC is not charging enough for services it provides and not by a small amount. All the talk about saving by shared services isn't going to make that much of a dent in the problems faced by the Conservatives and HDC. Charging the proper amount for services via the Council Tax is the only way to go if you want these services to continue. Have the Conservatives got the balls to tell the truth and push for a referendum after years claiming they are the low tax party. With David Monks (payoff £139,000) and Ian Bates going I feel any new Conservative leader has to talk frankly with the Huntingdonshire Council taxpayers and inform them of this problem and how they are going to get out of this mess

The same goes for the Liberal Democrats to an extent. They also need to be more forthcoming on how they would raise council tax to pay for these services. But the ball is in the Conservatives court. They got HDC into this mess with council tax that was just too low. The Conservatives need to be able to lead us out of this mess. The only way I can see is for a referendum on increasing council tax. It is just whether the Conservatives have the balls to go to the people on this issue.

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