Kettering Council tax freeze 'no longer sustainable'
Kettering Council's tax level should increase for the first time in nine years because the policy of freezing it is no longer sustainable, officers have warned.
The portion of council tax that goes to Kettering Council has stayed at the same level - £3.07 per week for a Band B property - since 2011/12 despite pleas from opposition councillors to increase it.
Last year a warning that it should rise was ignored by the ruling Conservative group who decided to freeze it.
Ahead of the 2020/21 budget setting officers at the council - which needs to save £1.734m in 2020/21 - have issued a warning that the maximum rise possible would be the most prudent course of action to take.
A report set to be discussed by councillors tonight (Wednesday) said: "The stronger the council tax yield, the greater the flexibility to deal with the future.
"Although the draft budget figures for 2020/21 currently show a balanced budget (at the same level of council tax), the increasing medium-term pressures/risks clearly indicate that a continuation of the council’s previous council tax freeze ‘policy’ is no longer sustainable.
"The clear advice from the professional officers of the council is that members should consider increasing the level of council tax for 2020/21 by the threshold limit amount.
"Taking into account the significant financial risks that the council (or successor council) is likely to face in future years, this is the most prudent course of action to take."
Borough and district councils cannot increase council tax by more than two per cent or £5 for a Band D home - whichever is higher - without a referendum. In Kettering this threshold is a £5 rise.
A £5 increase is equivalent to an increase of 10p per week for a Band D property. The average band in Kettering is Band B and this would represent an increase of 8p per week - and would generate additional council tax income of about £163,000 during 2020/21.
Opposition leader Cllr Mick Scrimshaw (Lab) said: "Nobody wants to put up council tax but we know what happens in Northamptonshire if you do not do so - just look at the county council.
"We are going to end up with four councils in north Northamptonshire (when the unitary council is created) who all have very different tax levels. I have a horrible feeling that Kettering is going to face some large rises because of the borough council's policy of not increasing council tax.
"Council finances are serious stuff. These should not be decisions taken on a whim for political gain so they can say they have kept tax low. The advice from council officers needs to be listened to."
The council's finance portfolio holder Cllr Lloyd Bunday (Con) has been contacted for comment.
The authority's budget, including council tax levels, will be discussed by the ruling executive committee tonight.
Once a consultation has taken place council tax levels will be set at a full council meeting on February 26.