04:34PM, Friday 24 February 2017
A nearly five per cent rise in council tax bills and tens of millions of pounds in borrowing was approved at a Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) meeting last night (Thursday).
The rise of 4.94 per cent includes an adult social care levy of three per cent, which is expected to generate an extra £2.5 million each year.
It comes as the council faces up to the rising demand for adult social care and 97.4 per cent cut in the revenue support grant.
Wokingham is the lowest funded unitary authority in the country, receiving just 99p of funding per head of the population — making it more reliant on council tax.
Councillor Julian McGhee-Sumner (Con, Wescott), deputy leader of the council, said: "Because our finances have changed in such a way that council tax now accounts for more than 81 per cent of our spending power, it is vital that we continue to see a healthy income from council tax.
"We are fortunate then, that we have an extremely strong tax base and that we have extremely efficient officers whose collection rate of 98.85 per cent is one of the highest in the country."
The budget also includes over £152m of new capital investment in infrastructure and regeneration.
Lindsay Ferris (Lib Dem, Twyford), leader of the opposition, expressed his concern at the levels of borrowing and subsequent debt saying: "The budget we have before us is the most risky, potentially dangerous budget I have seen in all my time on Wokingham Borough Council."
Independent councilor Gary Cowan (Arborfield) added: "Most of use are aware of the biggest risk in this budget is the escalating borrowing requirement.
"It is unclear what the specific funding sources are."
However, executive member for economic development and finance, Cllr Anthony Pollock (Con, Shinfield South) responded: "Regeneration projects will generate £4m in rent on top of business rates from new businesses."
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