At a Full Council meeting on Wednesday February 23 councillors overwhelmingly voted to pass the £62million budget that had been presented by the Conservative Cabinet.
The Tories have been running the authority as a minority party after it fell into No Overall Control in May 2021.
The party also lost two members to resignations earlier this year and lost last autumn’s Speldhurst & Bidborough by-election, which means the ruling party has just 21 councillors in the Town Hall compared to the opposition’s combined 26.
There had been fears that the budget, which included the using of reserves to shore up of a £2million black hole in the Council’s finances due to plummeting fees such as from car parks, could be voted down.
There is also £2million outlined in the budget for capital spending, which includes upgrades to the Assembly Hall Theatre as well as new lifts to be installed in the theatre, Town Hall and Camden Centre.
Cllr Hugo Pound, the Labour leader at Town Hall, told the chamber last week that his party could not vote for the Council’s budget because it was at ‘odds’ with the party’s policy positions.
He said: “Residents across the borough are telling us what’s important to them; bin collections; a clean environment, a healthy, safe place to live; cheaper, accessible transport; more for young families and children; more housing for those in need; a more equitable, fair society in which we can all flourish.
“This budget fails to deliver on those important matters.”
He continued: “Labour Councillors have repeatedly highlighted the lack of social and affordable housing in our Borough.
“It’s simply immoral that there are hundreds of families and individuals in poor and overcrowded housing on our Council’s waiting list; 954 of them this week.”
He added that the budget also lacked ‘significant steps’ in tackling climate change.
‘Council Tax has risen but it is below the present rate of inflation’
However, while all five Labour Party members voted against the budget, it was passed 20 votes to five, after both the Lib Dems and Alliance Party abstained.
Within the budget was an increase in TWBC’s share of Council Tax, which they collect for other authorities such as Kent County Council (KCC), of around £5 or 2.65 per cent for a band D property over the year.
It comes after Council Tax rises were previopusly announced by KCC, Kent’s Police and Crime Commissioner as well as the fire service.
The average Band D Council Tax across the borough now increases from £1,967.73 to £2,029.76, while those in higher bands could now face bills of more than £3,000.
Despite the increase, Leader of the Council Tom Dawlings said the rise was below current inflation levels.
He said: “I am pleased the Council approved the TWBC budget and was then able to set the Council Tax to collect on behalf of KCC, Police, Fire & Rescue Services and Parish/Town Councils.
“Of the total amount of £2,029.76 to be charged for a Band D property, an average of just £193.75 is retained by TWBC which is an increase of £5 from last year.
“Overall Council Tax in the borough had risen by 3.2 per cent, significantly below the present rate of inflation.”
YOUR NEW COUNCIL TAX BILL AND WHERE THE MONEY GOES
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