Subject to agreement by the Cabinet tonight and the full Council on 1st March, Council Tax bills will increase by just 0.8% on 1st April - the lowest increase since Council Tax was introduced nearly 20 years ago. A typical family living in a Band D home will see their bills increase by just 23p a week. This is despite Croydon yet again receiving the lowest increase in government grant of any council in the country.
Of course, want people want is a cut in their bills. With everyone feeling the pinch as a result of the recession, that's what we wanted to deliver too - and if it wasn’t for having to pay £4.5 million pounds towards the costs of caring for asylum seekers, which should be met by the Government not local Council Taxpayers, we would have been able to do so.
But we are making progress. Since we took control of Croydon Council in May 2006, Council Tax bills have increased by an average of just over 3% a year, compared with an average increase of nearly 12% over the four years of the last Labour administration, and the size of the increase has reduced each year. If the Conservative administration is re-elected on 6th May and we get a Conservative Government that is committed to helping councils keep Council Tax down, then as a minimum we will freeze bills for two years.
As well as the lowest ever Council Tax increase, the budget includes starting the upgrading of all the borough’s streetlights, the roll out of food waste recycling and half an hour’s free parking in our district centres.
The capital budget also being presented to Cabinet tonight includes a significant increase in spending on the borough's infrastructure, including:
- a further £300,000 for New Addington Pool on top of the £300,000 being spent in the current year;
- £1 million for the Fairfield Halls;
- £1.5 million for the 'Parks to be proud of' initiative which I have posted about previously;
- £12 million to help fund new council homes to reduce the housing waiting list;
- £4.6 million for road maintenance. tripling the amount the Council spends on this area which should go a long way to getting our roads in better condition; and
- over £26 million on primary schools to ensure there are enough places for all pupils whose parents want them to be educated in Croydon and transform the quality of accommodation and teaching.
The previous Labour administration had a number of high profile projects like Ashburton Learning Village and the Thornton Heath leisure centre but other facilities were allowed to fall into very poor condition, leaving a huge backlog of repairs. Our roads are an obvious example. Now that we have put the Council on a secure financial footing, we can begin the work of dealing with this backlog.