Council tax in Kingston will rise by 4.99 per cent in April, translating to an average weekly increase of £1.55 per household, after a budget was approved at a full council meeting on February 25.
The rise is the largest allowed increase in council tax that does not need to pass a referendum, and includes a 1.99 per cent increase in general funds and a three per cent increase in the adult social care precept.
Speaking at the full council meeting, Cllr Andreas Kirsch, portfolio holder for finance and commissioning, said: “We cannot and should not underestimate the financial challenges we are facing as a council…we have seen a huge increase in demand on our services, whereas at the same time we are facing a significant loss of income.”
Before being passed with 36 votes in favour, nine against and one abstention, the budget was hotly debated.
“Given that other councils around the country have in fact managed to deliver a balanced budget without the need to raise council tax, I question why Kingston Council cannot do the same,” said Conservative Cllr Roy Aurora.
“In an unprecedented year where everyone, in some shape or form, has been challenged like never before, and at a time when people have been feeling financially constrained, it is very, very sad that as a council we couldn’t help them out by freezing council tax this year.”
Kirsch acknowledged that local authorities across the country were facing similar financial challenges, but emphasised that Kingston’s situation was not the same as theirs.
“Kingston does not receive any revenue support from central government, whereas other authorities across London and the country still do,” he told the council.
“Ninety per cent of our budget is financed by council tax and business grants.
“This highlights the financial challenges we are facing as Kingston,” he added.
This is the second year in a row the council has increased council tax by the maximum amount, and, according to Property Data, puts Kingston’s council tax as the second highest in the UK and the highest of all London boroughs.
However, the Council has stressed that the rise is essential in order to plug the £4m shortfall left by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Unfortunately our financial position means an increase is necessary if we are to protect the services residents rely on and continue to provide the support our most vulnerable residents need,” said Cllr Caroline Kerr, leader of the Council.
“This budget will make it possible for us to deliver the investment that Kingston needs.
“In the months ahead we will be ambitious in our vision for the borough, but also be cautious to provide a safe and sustainable path towards recovery,” she said.