Lichfield District Council’s decision to raise council tax has been criticised by the leader of the opposition Labour group.
Councillors confirmed the 3.4 per cent rise yesterday (February 14) following a meeting of the Conservative-controlled cabinet.
Cllr Mike Wilcox, leader of Lichfield District Council, insisted the rise was a small price to pay for protecting key services.
“This [rise] will mean people living in the district will pay an extra 9p a week on average for the services we provide – such as emptying bins, cleaning streets, maintaining local parks, and running leisure centres.
“Even with the possible increase, we will still be among the lowest charging district councils in the country charging, on average, around £20 less a year than others.
“It’s important to remember that Lichfield District Council keeps just under 10 per cent of the total council tax paid by local residents. We distribute the rest to Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Police Authority, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority and parish councils.
“We hope local people will support our proposal, as it will mean that we can protect vital services that we know our residents want and need.”
However, Cllr Steve Norman – who leads the Labour group on Lichfield District Council – warned residents that the worst could be yet to come.
“Officers tell us that if there is no increase this year, and the council’s income does not increase as the government expects, then there would have to be a 6.8 per cent increase the following year,” he said. “This would mean that they would have to hold a referendum to see if local taxpayers supported the proposal.
“It is a difficult decision for the current council leader because of the decisions made by his predecessor, who had in fact been left a debt-free council by Labour 13 years ago next month – with £25.5 million in the bank!
“Now residents face high tax increases at a time when they can afford it least.”
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Authority confirmed earlier this week that it would not be increasing its portion of the council tax bill.