Taxing times but council bill will be frozen

Council tax and most fees and charges will be frozen by Aylesbury Vale District Council in the next financial year.

A proposal by the authority’s cabinet to keep its precept at £136.35 a year for a Band D property (£2.62 a week), was approved at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday.

The council will receive a grant from the government to support the freeze.

The council needed to find £2.5 million worth of savings to balance the budget in 2015/16 with the majority found through the council’s review of existing services and structures, plus new income sources. The shortfall is mainly due to the continued reductions in government grants.

Since 2010/11 the council has seen its government funding drop from £13 million to just over £6 million, which is more than a 50 per cent reduction. It is predicted that the government grant will be removed completely by 2020.

While AVDC faces ever increasing budget pressures, fees and charges for 2015/16 have been agreed with the authority saying it is being mindful of the need to continue to provide high quality, value for money to its residents.

There will be no increase in the majority of fees including planning, environment and health, contract services and legal and local land charges. Prices of some other services will see a small increase such as sports pitches, community centres and some car parks in Aylesbury.

Councillor Neil Blake, council leader, said: “We are trying to do our best to ensure that services are financially viable while, at the same time, reflecting the fact that our residents are living through difficult times. We’ve done what we can to avoid increasing charges if possible or, at least, keeping any increase to a minimum.”

Councillor Blake added: “The last few years have been challenging and, as nationally, there is the ongoing need to address the structural deficit. I predict that the forthcoming years will continue to be a challenge.

“I feel that, as a local authority, we have effectively planned for a reduction in funding and have been able to meet the challenge head on. By 2020 we will need to find further savings of £7 million but, by working with our staff and members and embracing new opportunities, I feel confident that we will once again rise to the challenge, whilst continuing to deliver the services that our residents need.”

The total council tax for Aylesbury Vale residents will be formalised on February 25 when the precepts for Buckinghamshire County Council, Thames Valley Police, Bucks Fire and Rescue and town and parish councils are added to the total bill.