Wiltshire Council has voted to increase Council Tax by 4.99% next year as part of its £465million annual budget. Although there was opposition, the increase to Council Tax was agreed by 73 votes to 1 (with four abstensions). During the meeting at County Hall, Trowbridge, the Council also voted to agree the budget with a smaller majority.
Opposition parties unsuccessfully tabled five amendments designed to ease the burdens of the increase on the county’s residents already struggling with the current cost-of-living crisis.
The tax rise is the maximum allowed and will add approximately £80 a year for a Band D household
Putting the tax rise in context, Council leader, Cllr Richard Clewer, opened the budget meeting by stating that, “local government as a sector is, to put it bluntly, on the edge of financial catastrophe”. He said that, because of careful budgeting, the council had managed to avoid the the worst spending cuts faced by other councils, citing neighbouring Somerset as an example. Adding that, “funding for arts, museums, libraries, leisure centres, and other vital services would be protected.”
During the debate, the Liberal Democrats, who form the main opposition party, proposed overturning cuts agreed a year ago to funding for elderly lunch clubs, as well as scrapping new charges for disabled drivers in council car parks. The opposition claimed that the most vulnerable in society were being targeted unfairly, but this idea was rejected by Tory councillors who claimed that most blue badge holders were capable of paying.
“Some of the most vulnerable people in the county will be hit, that’s wrong,” said Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Ian Thorn, who described the new charges as “pretty mean”.
The proposals were voted down.
Meanwhile, Labour leader, Ricky Rogers was defeated in his attempt to lower the rent increase facing social housing tenants from seven to five percent.