A Burntwood councillor says people who may be “too proud” to ask for help risk being forgotten when financial decisions are made.

Darren Ennis

Cllr Darren Ennis made his comments during a debate at Lichfield District Council on the size of the council tax bill for 2021/22.

Councillors eventually opted for a 2.78% increase – a decision one member described as “unfathomable” in the current climate.

Cllr Ennis, Labour representative for the Chasetown ward, said he had seen first hand the financial challenges residents were having.

He added that the increase would have a real impact on those already facing an uncertain future.

“Where I work at Sankey’s Corner is opposite Kean Styles where every day they put donated food out and many people come and take this because they are struggling.

“I speak to some of these people and they are from all walks of life – some aren’t even 100% sure they’ll have a job when furlough ends.

“Putting council tax up by the maximum at this moment is time? I don’t think it is right. A small increase I could maybe support, but the maximum?

“It might only be a small amount but it is the difference between buying loaves of bread or not.

“There’s a lot of people who are very proud who are too proud to ask for help.

“I can’t support a maximum increase because I don’t want to see anyone in our district suffer anymore by having to ask for help.”

Cllr Darren Ennis, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Rob Strachan

Cllr Rob Strachan, cabinet member for finance at Lichfield District Council, said the decision on the increase was a necessary one, warning the future of the local authority could not be risked.

“It’s a budget of necessity. I don’t want to put council tax up – I hate it, but it’s a necessity in this environment.

“It would be wholly wrong of me to freeze it for the sake of freezing it when I can actually do what I’m doing and then use it to redistribute funds to keep this council open and doing what it does best.”

Cllr Rob Strachan, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Joanne Grange, independent member for Chadsmead ward, had suggested dipping into financial reserves to protect residents from a council tax hike.

“We don’t know where the end of the tunnel is”

Cllr Ennis said a greater awareness of the current situation facing residents was necessary.

“If we were in a perfect world, where jobs were secure and safe, I would agree there’s an argument to increase.

“I’ve heard words about vaccines and our success on this front as a nation. It’s worth applauding, but we don’t know where the end of that tunnel is.

“I was always taught to be optimistic but plan in case it doesn’t happen.”

Cllr Darren Ennis, Lichfield District Council

Cllr Strachan said that his budget was the only way to safeguard the future of the council itself.

“Cllr Ennis said we should be optimistic but plan for it – that’s precisely what I’m doing.

“If, as we expect, funding is widely distributed to top tier authorities to deal with their difficulties in adult social care and the structural problems they have then we will go out of business very, very rapidly.

“Yes, I’m optimistic that there will be bright times ahead – I’m hopeful, but I’m not going to stake the house on it so I’m going to plan for that.”

Cllr Rob Strachan, Lichfield District Council

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