Cherwell vote to increase council tax and allowances

Cherwell District Council
Cherwell District Council

Cherwell District Council met last night to discuss, among other things, their councillor allowances and to calculate the amounts of council tax per band for Cherwell residents.

Cllr Barry Wood, Conservative leader of the council, proposed the motion to approve the recommended allowance increase.

Cllr Wood said: “We do this every year in respect to the members allowance scheme. My advice to members is you have an independent panel for a reason and that is to take these matters at arms length from members dealing with their own interests, so to speak.

“My advice is the same that it always is to accept the recommendation of the panel and to agree the recommendations set out in the report.

Summing up the Cllr added: “It’s usual for us to accept the recommendations. There is, in my view, no hardship in them either to the collective tax paying public or to the authority as a whole.”

The report, which can be viewed on the CDC website, recommends an increase of 2.4 percent for council members allowances. This would see the basic allowance of £4284 for the year 2018/2019 increase to £4392 for the fiscal year 2019/2020.

Special responsibility allowances will also increase by 2.4 per cent meaning the leader of the council’s annual allowance will raise from £7,284 to £7,476.

The motion, opposed by Labour, passed 24 votes to nine with two abstentions.

Council taxes were also up for discussion with increases recommended.

Cllr Tony Ilott, lead member for financial management and governance, said: “This council, for the last ten years, has not added a single penny to the council tax.

“During this period the public will not have noticed a decline in services the council provide, in fact many of the services have been enhanced.

“But there comes a time when adjustments have to be made if we’re going to continue to maintain and enhance the services we provide to the residents, as a council we have a statutory duty to set and agree a council tax with the deadline of March 11.

He added: “I therefore recommend an increase in the council tax of £5. That’s £5 a year which works out at less than 10 pence a week which I don’t think will cause hardship to many people. The small increase is very much in line with district councils that surround us.”

The motion was passed 33 votes to nil with no abstentions.

Leader of the Labour party, Sean Woodcock, said: “Having voted to increase residents’ Council Tax out of apparent necessity, it is frankly staggering that the Conservatives voted to increase their own allowances.

“Asking residents to put their hand in their pockets while councillors pocket more, shows a an authority that is out of touch.

“Labour pledged that if we gained control of this authority, we would not raise Council Tax; not without explaining why.

“This is because we don’t want to raise peoples’ council tax. But we are prepared to do it, if the alternative is cutting people’s services.

“For us, being honest and straight with residents is more important than boasting on a campaign leaflet.

“Now here we are three years later, with the group opposite telling us that they now need to raise the council tax. But they are not being honest with people.

“Granted they have told us that they are getting less money from central government. But this isn’t even the half of it. The truth is that they are on the frontline of a deliberate government policy of cuts.”

CDC agreed an overall budget of £22.7m to deliver all of Cherwell’s services, including waste and recycling collections, leisure centres, planning and street cleansing.

Cllr Barry Wood, leader of the council, will be writing to all residents when the annual Council Tax bill goes out to provide more information about the tax setting and to explain where Cherwell’s portion of the money goes.

Of the money charged, Cherwell will retain 6.8 per cent. The remainder will be split between Oxfordshire County Council, which takes 77.3 per cent; Thames Valley Police, which keeps 10.9 per cent; and town and parish councils which are paid the remaining five per cent.

Cherwell will be sending out the 2019 to 2020 Council Tax bills from March 12.