Council Tax on the Isles of Scilly is likely to go up by 5.99% next year.
Members heard at January 18th’s Full Council meeting that changes in government rules mean the limit local authorities can raise Council Tax without a referendum is now 2.99% rather than 1.99%.
Chief Finance Officer Andy Brown recommended the maximum permitted Council Tax increase of 5.99% in 2018/19 as part of setting a legally balanced budget. This comprises the 2.99% plus the 3% social care precept.
Next year's budget and Council Tax will be formally agreed at the next Full Council meeting on February 22nd.
Council Tax on the islands rose 4.99% last year, bringing the proposed total rise to around 11% in two years. It is expected to revert to 1.99% from 2019/20 onwards.
Council chairman Ted Moulson thanked Andy for the clear information provided and said that he and Chief Executive Theo Leijser were meeting with central government the following week to discuss future funding.
Cllr Jonathan smith commented: “I think we’re backed into a corner by this. There’s an expectation [from the government] that we should put up Council Tax but talking from a local point of view I think this is less than an ideal situation.
"I think we need to think very carefully about how we sell this and what the population are going to get in return essentially. We should be giving a better service for the increased contribution in Council Tax I think.”
Cllr Moulson responded: “I understand the reluctance of members to heighten Council Tax to the absolute maximum… and I fully concur with what you’ve said. However, I’d like just to remind members that the Isles of Scilly are pound for pound one of the lowest Council Tax bases in the UK and we have been historically as well… we are considerably below the national average as far as Council Tax is concerned.”
Cllr Steve Sims said: “It’s 11.5% over two years compounded which is quite a lot and I can understand why everyone who’s got to pay it, which includes everyone in this room, would be quite alarmed by that. The issue is really that the Chairman and Chief Executive are pursuing [more funding from central government].
"If we go up there and say we need more money for various things and we are not delivering the full whack of Council Tax, they're going to say, ‘well you don’t really need it that much, do you?’ So I think it’s not pleasant for people to pay but I don’t really think there’s any alternative.”
Vice-chair Fran Grottick agreed with Cllr Sims, saying that “we have to show when we go to London that we help ourselves as much as possible… as the chairman says, we do have historically low Council Tax rates”.