Bigger council tax bills expected in 2007

COUNCIL taxpayers in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire could be facing bigger bills next year. Bedfordshire County Council said it is facing a second tough budget in as many years as details of a poor grant from central government- the single biggest factor

COUNCIL taxpayers in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire could be facing bigger bills next year.

Bedfordshire County Council said it is facing a second tough budget in as many years as details of a poor grant from central government- the single biggest factor in determining council tax levels - were confirmed last week.

Hertfordshire warn they may have to may some difficult decisions if they are to maintain current services.

Bedfordshire's increase, allowing for adjustments, is once again the lowest received by councils at just 2.7 per cent.


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That increase is not enough to cover the costs the council faces in coping with increased demand for services, meaning reductions in services seem likely.

Cllr Richard Stay, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: "Bedfordshire's grant increase, allowing for adjustments, is once again the lowest received by councils. Last year the government gave us peanuts - this year they've decided to give us the empty packet.

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"We will be getting an increase of 2.7 per cent, which is way below the level of inflation that councils have to deal with, and completely ignores increased demand for our services.

"We have worked hard to make efficiencies this financial year and they will be even more important now in keeping costs to the taxpayer down. The government has said that it will keep council tax rises at 5 per cent, and we will have to work very hard to keep below that level."

Cllr Madeline Russell, leader of Bedfordshire County Council, said: "Our grant allocation is the single biggest factor in deciding the level of council tax in the county.

"It comes as no surprise that we are at the bottom of the government's priorities and all our budget planning has been based on that eventuality.

"I know that council tax is too high, especially for older people and people on fixed incomes, so we will do our best to limit the impact of this announcement on Bedfordshire's residents."

Cllr David Beatty, leader of Hertfordshire County Council, said: "In order to balance our books we may have to make some difficult decisions, whilst continuing to provide our services for the people of Hertfordshire.

"The government announcement is disappointing and no extra money has been allocated.

"We have made our concerns very clear to government that in our major service areas we face costs that are rising significantly more than the normal rate of inflation and there is an even greater number of people entitled to our care services.

"We are facing increased pressure due to rising costs of social care, energy and waste disposal.

"Last year there was an eighty per cent rise in the number of people needing support in their homes and this is part of an ongoing trend.

"The rising cost of oil means that we are paying a lot more for Tarmac and other road maintenance materials, plus the cost of disposing of the county's waste has risen sharply from £21m two years ago to £26m last year.

"The Local Government Association and councils have been lobbying for a better financial support package from government as we want to keep the council tax increase as low as possible, but they have not listened.

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