Hertsmere to discuss council tax freeze

Proposals to freeze the average band D council tax in Hertsmere for the fourth consecutive year will be discussed by councillors next week.

Hertsmere Borough Council’s executive committee will discuss proposals on Wednesday (February 13) to avoid an increase, and balance the budget by accepting a council tax support grant from the government and using other reserves.

The budget must also deal with a reduction in the overall number of households eligible to pay council tax from 41,982 to 37,801 due to reforms in council tax collection.

New properties totalling 181 plus the inclusion of previously exempt properties such as those that were long-term vacant means council tax will be charged to an additional 609 homes over last year.

However, 4,225 homes have been reduced from the overall tax base due to the council tax benefit support scheme.

Papers released before next Wednesday’s meeting show the borough council expects to collect £5,944,174 in council tax and will supplement it by accepting a £688,174 council tax support grant and £81,000 from its own collection fund adjustment account.

The news comes just weeks after councillors voted to pass an £827,000 funding cut in the amount paid in council tax benefit, meaning many residents will have to pay £5 a week more.

The saving will be made by capping the amount that can be claimed at Band D levels, meaning anyone living in a large or expensive home may no longer be eligible for 100 per cent of their tax bill to be covered as it was last year.

Councillor John Graham, portfolio holder for finance, said 45 per cent of people who receive benefits in Hertsmere are pensioners and "we need to protect them".

As a result, pensioners, parents with children under five and disabled people who are entitled to disability living allowance, will not see any changes to their bills.

Claimants who are not protected will have to pay a total of £5 per week towards their council tax bill.

Councillor Graham added: "For many, this will be difficult in the current economic circumstances. It has been a difficult decision to make."

Leader of the opposition Labour group, Councillor Ann Harrison, said: "I accept this has to be imposed on us but it is terrible yet again to attack people on low incomes.

"The proposals protect vulnerable groups which is fine as it stands, but what will we do if funding gets cut again next year by another ten per cent?

"I understand why we have to do something but as a group we cannot support this motion because of our objections to the principle."

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