Town committee agrees ‘courageous’ doubling of council tax while borough council makes slight increase

The Boston Borough Council building.
The Boston Borough Council building.

Residents in the town centre could see a portion of their council tax more than double after councillors recommended what they called a ‘courageous’ move in a bid to make money to spend on Boston.

The Boston Town Area Committee voted unanimously on Wednesday night to raise its portion of the council tax bill from £24.75 to £69.93 – a rise of £45.18 a year or 87 pence per week – for band D properties in 2017/18.

Coun Nigel Welton

Coun Nigel Welton

They also plan to raise the tax further by two per cent per annum until 2021/22 – when the charge would be £75.51.

The aim is to raise money to cover the costs incurred in Boston Borough Council’s Transformation Programme, which saw the committee take on responsibility for public toilets, footway lighting, Central Park and maintenance of open spaces.

Councillors said it will also resource new initiatives planned for the town by the committee.

BTAC chairman Coun Nigel Welton said the move showed the council had courage and called it an opportunity.

He said: “This report makes me sad, makes me happy, makes me fearful and makes me excited.

“What this committee has proven over the last 18 months is we have the courage, the conviction to take decisions many generations of councils before us didn’t.”

The news also follows a Government proposal which could stop parish councils raising their precept in the future.

“If we don’t have the courage to do something then the Government will take away our ability to raise our precept,” added Mr Welton.

Coun Paul Gleeson played down the effect it would have on residents, saying that 95 per cent of properties in the BTAC area were below Band D with 40 per cent being either Band B or C. The report to council said that 70 per cent of properties were in bands A and B, with their weekly increase equating to 58 and 68 pence respectively.

Mr Gleeson added that other factors to take into consideration were things like benefits and council tax support schemes, with some properties only paying £11/12.

He added: “It’s a large figure, but it will enable us to maintain our processes and improve them, to keep toilets open and to improve facilities that will attract 
people and business to the town.”

He said he hoped that investing money back into the town from the additional revenue created would also attract trained professionals such as GPs and other healthcare workers to stay.

Councillors were given other parish charges from 2016/17 as comparisons, with the highest being Sleaford at £104.07 and the lowest being Woodhall Spa at £35.50.

Councillors agreed that this move would also be the final big move.

Coun Welton added: “This is a one-off opportunity, we won’t be doing this again but what we have got to do is have courage to bring us in line with other councils around the country.

“We have got to have the budget to get the things we want.”

Ratepayers across the borough as a whole could see their council tax increase by 2.86 per cent after Boston Borough Council agreed the rise in its share.

The council’s cabinet recommended the rise for 2017/18, which will equal an extra 9p a week per household, on Wednesday.

The change will mean the average bill for a band D property set at about £178.29.

Councillors heard a balanced budget had been achieved, despite Government financial reductions and funding unfairness between rural and urban areas.

A report before the cabinet said the council had budgeted for no inflation up to 2021/22.

Councillors were told the budget gap for 2021/22 was projected to be £1.4 million.

Revenue Support Grant funding from central Government will reduce from £1,430,000 to £969,000 next year, and to nothing by 2020/21.

The rural services grant will also decrease from £85,000 to £68,000 next year, eventually disappearing in 2020/21.

The council’s Transformation Project has saved £588,000 for 2017/18.

Despite reduced funding the majority of council services continue to be delivered and no significant increases in fees and charges are proposed for 2017/18 councillors were told.

The council’s gross budgeted income for 2017/18 will be £34,867,000, down from £36,493,000 in the current year

The full report is available at http://bit.ly/2j7FbUR and the consultation is at http://bit.ly/2iFKg3m.

Consultation ends at 9am on Friday, February 17. The budget will go to the full council for approval on Monday, February 27.