Kingston Council agrees council tax freeze

Kingston council agreed a freeze on council taxes next year, but warned that residents could face a five per cent rise in 2013.  Kingston Council has agreed not to increase council tax rates next year and will instead receive a £2m grant from central government, saving residents an average of £83.   Leader of Council Derek Osbourne said that keeping council tax at its current level was “the right thing to do” and that it would “help people through the depths of the recession”.   However, the council will need to save an extra £4m in addition to the 24 per cent already cut from the budget next year if they are to avoid putting up council taxes by up to five per cent in 2013.   Even with the government grant the council will need to find £300,000 in savings next year.   Councillor Osbourne expressed his disappointment that the government had reneged on its pledge to assist council’s to maintain a freeze on taxes for the next four years.   Osbourne said that asking councils to make further “destructive” cuts to services to avoid putting up council taxes in 2013 was a situation “not bearable by local governments”.   Conservative Tudor Ward councillor David Cunningham congratulated officers on the savings that had already been made and said: “We owe it to our residents to do all we can [to make savings] but to refuse the £2m would be illogical.”   Councillor Eric Humphrey of Coombe Hill ward agreed saying that to refuse the offer would be “looking a gift horse in the mouth”.   The £2m grant is Kingston council’s share of the £805m made available by Chancellor George Osborne to councils who promise to freeze their council tax for 2012-13.   So far, Brighton and Hove City Council are the only council to have rejected the government grant available to councils that freeze council tax rates and will increase council tax by 3.5 per cent next year.   The move was labelled a “huge mistake” by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions last week but the ruling Green Party claim it is necessary to avoid a steep rise in council tax rates in years to come.

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