Stevenage Borough Council set to raise tax as budget reveals spending for climate change and regeneration
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Council tax in Stevenage will increase as the council has approved its budget for 2020/2021.
The latest plans will see council tax rise by 2.37 per cent - an increase of £4.45 per year for Band C properties. Each Band C property will pay £191.62 to Stevenage Borough Council, equating to 53p per household per day.
Of the council tax collection by the council, Stevenage Borough keeps 11.8 per cent, with the rest passed on to Herts County Council and the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The County Council's increase of 3.99 per cent and the Police and Crime Commissioner's increase of 5.32 per cent means the Band C council tax in Stevenage for 2020/21 will be £1624.69.
The council has forecasted that with this rise in council tax, as well as a rise in business rates, it will have £9.1 million to spend for 2020/2021. It has said it will be making no redundancies as a way of saving money.
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There will be investments into climate initiatives, the town centre regeneration, delivery of affordable homes, and the Stevenage Against Domestic Abuse service.
The expenditure also includes the usual doorstep refuse and recycling collections, maintenance of parks and green spaces, the play service and play areas, community safety, cemeteries, environmental health, and leisure and cultural facilities such as the Museum.
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Council leader Sharon Taylor said: "Our council is one that continues to punch above its weight. Although we are a small borough, we are an award-winning one, demonstrating innovation and positive outcomes for residents, whilst also leading the single largest regeneration programme in the East of England, which is no easy task."
Councillor Taylor emphasised that providing quality, affordable housing for the people of Stevenage is one of the council's top priorities. With funding set aside to ensure the council meets its ambitious target of building over 500 council homes by 2025.
She also unveiled plans for the leader's spending initiatives, reconfirming her and the council's commitment to tackling climate change with the announcement of a £20,000 budget to fund initiatives to ensure the council reaches carbon-neutrality by 2030.
The leader's initiatives moved to reduce the cuts made the Stevenage Citizen's Advice. Initially, the plan was to cut the entirety of the £40,000 Citizen's Advice contract, but under the leader's initiative, it will be cut by £20,000.
However, the Conversative opposition had some reservations about how the council is spending its money. Stevenage Conservative leader Phil Bibby said: "Most of the problem is the administration clinging on to politically led, rather than financially led policies. For example, holding elections three out of four years, rather than one every four years.
"More significantly, the Labour group insist on opposing a joint waste collection and disposal operation within the county, but prefer not to allow and share in an annual county wide saving of £22m - this would certainly solve the annual Council deficit, and help fund better services.
"Despite what they say about a 'climate emergency' when setting the budget, we did not have the spare capacity to spend a further £900,000 on the Kenilworth development to improve its eco sustainability!"
In response to Mr Bibby's concerns, Councillor Taylor added: "I would remind Councillor Bibby that it is his government and the coalition before it that have cut £9.48 million from our budget.
"This has led to a financial plan which has included using some reserves while keeping them at a prudent level while we adjust our spending to having no Govt grant at all.
"The outsourcing of waste collection has led to significant problems in other parts off the county including under the previous administration in North Herts and increased charges for residents who have to pay £40 to have their green waste collected.
"Isn't it time his government put their money where their mouth is and supported councils to tackle climate change. We have had nothing so far and in spite of this have found extra £74,000 this year for our carbon busting budget. That's good financial management as is delivering 120 services for £16 a month to Stevenage residents."