District Council approves council tax rise but with £100 rebate for poorest

File photo showing coins and notes

File photo. Uttlesford residents will pay £5 a year more council tax from April but nearly 1,000 will get a one-off £100 rebate - Credit: PA

Uttlesford residents will pay £5 a year more council tax from April – but nearly 1,000 will get a one-off £100 rebate to help them cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Uttlesford District Council passed its budget, including an amendment for the rebate. This was proposed by the Liberal Democrat and Green Groups but supported by the Residents For Uttlesford-led administration.

At district level, council tax for a Band D property in Uttlesford will increase by 3.09% to £166.61.

But 948 people who already receive council tax support, but are still paying some council tax, will be eligible for the £100 rebate this year.

Councillor Neil Hargreaves

Councillor Neil Hargreaves of Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Residents For Uttlesford

Councillor Neil Hargreaves, deputy leader and portfolio holder for Finance and Budget (R4U), said at Tuesday's meeting: “With spiralling energy bills and inflation, we understand and appreciate that money is tight for some residents, and the UDC increase is below the rate of inflation at a very modest 10p per week.”

Councillor Ayub Khan

Councillor Ayub Khan of Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Ayub Khan

Introducing the amendment, Councillor Ayub Khan (Lib Dem) said the interest-free loan introduced by national government earlier this year would go some way to helping families, but a coming hike in national insurance will soon hit the lowest income residents in the district.

He said: “We are in extraordinary times. The cost of living crisis will hit families across Uttlesford hard. 

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“High inflation predicted to rise to 7.4%, soaring energy bills, low benefit levels and council tax increases at county and district level as well as an increase in the parish council level, will make it very difficult for all of our residents, especially for low income families who find it hardest to cope.”

This comes two weeks after the government announced the district council would be designated, meaning it has been stripped of some of its planning powers.

Developers now have the option of applying directly to the planning inspectorate for major applications, meaning the council will lose out on an estimated £560,000 worth of planning fees this year.

This estimation is based on an assumption that 50% of major applications will still be made to the council and that the designation will only last for one year, neither of which are guaranteed.

However, Cllr Hargreaves said the loss had been taken into account and that council reserves had actually increased.

He said: “All the income downsides have been factored in, with the upside being that no cuts have been made in the expected 2022-2023 expenditures in order to achieve a balanced budget. I’d like to reinforce that point, no cuts in the annual budget.”

Council house rent will be increasing this financial year by 4.9%, which also drew criticism from some councillors.

Cllr Neil Gregory

Cllr Neil Gregory, Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Uttlesford District Council

Councillor Neil Gregory (Uttlesford Independents) told the meeting: “4.9% is a huge amount of money, especially when individuals’ personal budgets are under such pressure from energy prices and generalised inflation.”

R4U Councillor Arthur Coote of Uttlesford District Council

Councillor Arthur Coote, Uttlesford District Council - Credit: Archive

Meeting chair, Cllr Arthur Coote (R4U) said: “I think it’s unfortunate that people on the lower incomes, which they would be in social housing, have to pay that, but I don’t see any way round it.”

After separate increases from Essex County Council, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex and the district’s town and parish councils, total council tax for a Band D property in the district will be £1,965.60, a 4.29% increase of £80.88, before the loan from national government.

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