Tax increases or cut in services? Council asks residents to decide

    Tonbridge

    The Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council has claimed residents ‘are being clobbered’ by a Government decision that will leave its coffers nearly £2million short over the next four years.

    Nicolas Heslop said the public had a choice between permitting council tax increases or facing a reduction in the range of services that the council provides.

    For residents in Tonbridge, the increases would mean households paying on average an extra £42 a year for the borough’s portion of the overall annual tax bill.

    The additional sum, billed as a ‘local charge’, would pay for upkeep of the area’s local parks, playgrounds, allotments, events and cemeteries.

    Speaking at a meeting of the Tonbridge Forum, the borough leader revealed the council was one of only 15 in the country deemed to be performing sufficiently strongly, meaning that the Government’s grant funding would be slashed on an accelerated rate within the next two years.

    Mr Heslop said: “We have made representations on this issue to the Government through (Tunbridge Wells MP and Communities Minister) Greg Clark. While we are being given some flexibility, we are also in a position over the next few years where we will actually owe the Government an extra £1million.

    “We have been penalised for following what the Government has actually asked us to do in terms of encouraging businesses and building houses to meet population growth,” explained the council leader, who stressed it was important that residents had their say through the public consultation.

    While he said the council would in future be funded largely through retaining business rates, there was uncertainty over how much money such a strategy would actually produce. If the new council tax system is approved, the borough would cease paying a grant of £226,000 towards parish areas to claw back some of its shortfall.

    Sharon Shelton, the council’s director of finance, said the introduction of a revised tax system was ‘a difficult issue’ but believed a new charge would spread the tax costs more evenly across the authority.

    She said: “We have to make significant savings as a council as the cost of running the council’s services is more than the council presently has coming in.”

    To take part in the tax consultation, visit www.tmbc.gov.uk/localcharge

    Anyone requiring it in another format should call 01732 876086. The questionnaires must be returned by June 20.