Bedford residents set for "eye-watering" council tax increase after councillor vote

A majority of councillors voted in favour of the administration's budget
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Bedford borough residents are to have an “eye-watering” council tax increase after a majority of councillors voted in favour of the administration’s budget.

Full Council heard last night (February 7) that the budget for 24/25 is based upon a 2.99 per cent increase in core council tax supplemented by a 2 per cent increase in the adult social care precept

The portfolio holder for finance, risk and welfare, councillor Graeme Coombes (Wixams & Wilstead) said: “As a low tax Conservative this goes against my natural instinct to put up the council tax.

Borough HallBorough Hall
Borough Hall

“But council tax is one of only three areas where the council is able to generate revenue.

“The others being business rates and the revenue support grant, over which we don’t have any mechanism to change what we are given by the government,” he said.

“I know that a 2.99 per cent increase is the maximum allowed.

“Councils up and down the country of all colours, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Independent, hung councils, all are looking to maximise their council tax.

“It is not a unique thing for Bedford, and it shows the sheer scale ofdifficulty which local government, in general, finds itself due to financial pressures,” he said.

Liberal Democrat group leader, councillor Henry Vann said: “It is an eye-watering rise in council tax.”

Councillor Michael Headley (Lib Dem, Putnoe) added: “So after 14 years residents get to see what a Conservative budget looks like.

“We have a proposal from them to go straight in with the maximum council tax rise of 4.99 per cent.

“This is the highest rise since the creation of the unitary council and compares with an average of just 2.2 per cent over the previous mayor’s 14 budgets.

“This hits residents directly in their pockets as the cost of a crisis continues,” he said.

Councillor Sue Oliver, the deputy leader of the Labour Group, said: “Perversely, part of me is glad that the Conservatives have had to experience the responsibility of setting a balanced budget.

“They have finally discovered how difficult it is to do this when since 2010 the Conservative central government has been cutting funding for local government.

“We don’t like a 4.99 [per cent] increase in council tax, but this is what the government is forcing councils across the country, of all political persuasions, to do just to decide to survive, in some cases just to avoid bankruptcy.

“Magically, the government suddenly awarded an additional £1.313 million to this council last week.

“You might think they have seen the error of their ways and are seeking to redress their chronic and sustained under funding.

“Or if you’re more cynical, you might say that there’s a general election on the horizon.

“The Labour Group is a democratic group and our consensus is that grudgingly we will support this budget.

“But please don’t get the impression that we’re new best friends,” the ward councillor for Kempston North said.

Councillor Coombes said: “I’m under no illusion that the Conservative Group and Labour Group are suddenly best friends.

“But I thank you for your comments, I hear what you’re saying and I thank your group for saying that it will support the budget,” he said.

The General Fund Revenue Budget 2024/2025 was agreed by a majority vote.

Which means an average Band D Council Tax of £1,824.64 (not including precepts, such as police and fire).

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