Kingston reveals plans to hike council tax as locals struggle with cost of living

By Charlotte Lillywhite - Local Democracy Reporter

1st Feb 2023 | Local News

Kingston's Guildhall (Credit: Google Maps)
Kingston's Guildhall (Credit: Google Maps)

Kingston residents could see their council tax hiked by 4.99 per cent in April, the maximum allowed without a referendum. Kingston Council has revealed its proposed budget for the upcoming financial year, with the authority needing to save £8.14million.

The council said it is facing rising demands on services, increasingly complex needs and pressures from the cost of living crisis – adding to ongoing challenges from the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. A fresh report says the budget proposals aim to help the authority meet "significant challenges" while ensuring services for residents and supporting those most in need.

The government lifted the referendum cap in November last year, meaning councils can raise taxes by 4.99pc annually without the need for it to be voted in by residents. The increase includes 2.99pc for general use and an extra 2pc for adult social care.

The report proposes an overall 4.99pc increase in council tax for Kingston residents for the 2023/24 financial year. This means the average band D household would pay £1,813.46 per year if the proposals are approved, an increase of £86.19.

If the budget figures are approved, the council will spend £161.1m on services for residents in the next year, including support for families struggling with the cost of living.

The council's reserves stand at £19.6m, with no increase proposed, but an overspend in 2022/23 is forecast. The report says an overspend and shortfall of funding for activities covered by the dedicated schools grant, for children with special educational needs (SEND), will lead to a cumulative deficit of £8m by March 31.

The authority has signed a safety valve agreement with the Department for Education (DfE) to claim up to £30m in extra funds over five years – reforming SEND services in return. Another key pressure highlighted in the report is the high demand for adult and children social care.

The report also says the provisional local government finance settlement was "more generous" compared to recent years – with an average 9.2pc increase in core spending power in 2023/24.

But it adds: "Whilst this went some way to support the council to meet rising cost and demand-led pressures in the budget for 2023/24 much of the funding is specific or targeted towards certain service areas. The council is facing significant inflationary pressures across many service areas meaning there were still difficult decisions to be taken to deliver this balanced budget."

Residents on low incomes or claiming certain benefits can get help with their bills through the council tax reduction scheme. 

Lib Dem council leader Andreas Kirsch said: "We are in a stronger position than many to face the financial challenges ahead because we have put the borough's finances in order, taken the decisive action needed and started the work to build effective community resilience.

"This means we can continue to focus on the key services our residents rely upon and continue the important work to transform our borough environmentally, culturally and economically. We know this is a difficult time for everyone and help is available for those who are on a low income or claiming certain benefits through the council tax reduction scheme."

The proposals will be discussed at committees in February for a final decision at the annual budget meeting on March 2.


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