• Matthew Brennan

Conservative Councillors in Dunstable choose to increase your council tax

The Dunstable Town Council has voted to increase council tax by 3.1%.

Labour will oppose this increase.

One thing I hear time and time again as a Councillor and as a human being is "I'm so happy that our council has a balanced budget". I'm not suggesting that it should have an unbalanced budget, I'm just suggesting it should live a little so the rest of us can. As a Councillor, I was voted in to represent the people of my ward, and it is my opinion that the people of my ward are sick of price increases everywhere.

Despite soaring inflation, an actual pandemic; a planned 1.95% tax rise by Central Bedfordshire Council, and spiralling cost of living increases, the Finance and General Purposes Committee of Dunstable Town Council plans to propose a budget that includes a 3.1% council tax rise for all Band D homes in Dunstable.

The reason for this decision is quite simple. The council is planning for a possible 5% increase in wage costs due to an expected pay increase for all staff next year. This, combined with a suspected 1.25% increase in National Insurance contributions and a likely further 1% increase in pension contributions means next year the council will likely run into a deficit. The bottom line is they must balance that budget. To cover the deficit caused by these increases they need to raise the precept and increase resident contributions to the council. Or do they?

Objections were raised by Johnson Tamara and myself in very different ways. Johnson Tamara argued reducing the pay increase (which was not within our control) from 5% to 3% which he believed would lower the projected deficit and though we would still need to raise the precept, it would only be (by his calculations) by 2%.

It was my opinion; we did not need to raise the precept.

I understand that there may be increases throughout the year. I understand that there will likely be a pay award which is fantastic for our staff! All wages need to be raised. But the council has £540,000 in general reserve. It has a very long winded and slightly confusing £100,000 ring fenced as a COVID just-in-case. It has £1.1 million in total if you include allocated reserves, and it has a further £1.2m in ring fenced allocated funding for specific projects. We could, if we chose, take the £72,000 hit on the general reserve this year and allow our residents some breathing space. Promote ourselves as the caring council we would be in that instance. Unfortunately, in the choice between being a voice for their people and ease, this group of Conservative Councillors chose ease. That is why your Labour Councillors will be objecting to the budget when it goes to full council.

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