Setting Reading’s Council Tax – Tonight
For those readers who live in Reading, tonight there is an opportunity to view the full Council undertake one of the most important debates of the year. Tonight we will discuss the Council’s budget for the 2010/11 financial year and set the level of Council Tax that will enable that budget to be delivered.
We will also discuss Reading’s Local Area Agreement and the Cultural Strategy but the main focus will be on the Budget. This year Labour’s proposal is for an increase in the Reading Borough Council element of 2.2%, which due to the low level of Fire and Police increases this year will result in a 2.1% increase for Council Tax payers. The actual increase in spending is 3.8% in Council Tax but Labour have reduced the impact on us all by using £2.5m from reserves and balances.
The VAT “windfall” of £3.6m received last year has been used to cover this year’s £1.4m overspend and keep the Council Tax increase down. The budget papers describe this approach as “a short-term funding measure which will increase budget pressures in future years”. This leads to the conclusion that this budget “contains a higher level of risk compared with budgets set in previous years”. The result is that the Council’s Chief Finance Officer has insisted that £5m be kept in the reserves, as opposed to £4m last year, to cover the higher level of risk.
Conservatives have consistently argued that the Council should be freezing Council Tax in these tough times. Across the nation many Councils are freezing their Council Tax this year. In London even Labour Councils are doing so! Here in Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead have managed to CUT Council Tax by 4% this year. It could be done here too.
The Council meeting begins at 6:30pm tonight in the Civic Offices. Any Reading residents who would like to come along and watch the meeting is welcome to do so from the public gallery where copies of the Agenda and Council Reports will be available.