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Canterbury City Council increases council tax bills for 2024/25 as budget agreed

City councillors have passed a “budget of common sense” for the next year which includes a raft of controversial new parking charges and £700,000 worth of savings.

The Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition at Canterbury City Council voted through its first budget taking effect from April.

Canterbury City Council’s council tax bill for an average Band D property in 2024/25 is £2,196.79. Picture: iStock
Canterbury City Council’s council tax bill for an average Band D property in 2024/25 is £2,196.79. Picture: iStock

But councillors stress they will take “tough decisions” over the next few years.

At a meeting of all members of the council in the city’s Guildhall on Thursday (February 22), politicians met to hash out the plans.

Cllr Mike Sole (Lib Dem), cabinet member for finance, told councillors: “This budget is much more than a balanced spreadsheet, it is a programme for change.

“Not just a budget of pounds and pence, but a budget of common sense.”

He did however admit that with £150 million of debt, the authority has “the highest debt of any district council in Kent,” and explained that servicing that debt costs the council about £11m a year.

That figure is equivalent to about the entire income the council makes from parking charges.

Councillors met at The Guildhall in Canterbury
Councillors met at The Guildhall in Canterbury

CCC has come under fire in recent months for the parking plans in the budget - which will see prices at some car parks jump to as much as £3.70 an hour.

However, the council recently announced some concessions to residents on the fees - including a 10% discount at the 10 car parks with ANPR cameras, and some car parks such as Oyster and Beach Walk in Whitstable being moved down to the cheaper Band Two.

At the budget meeting, Cllr Sole praised transport chief Cllr Alex Ricketts’ (Lib Dem) work on parking in the budget.

The authority is raising its share of the council tax bill by 2.99% while Kent County Council's precept is up 4.992% with an average Band D property in the district paying £2,196.79 in 2024/25.

Cllr Sole added: “This Labour and Liberal Democrat coalition will continue to provide services for our residents and deliver the message that this council’s finances are in safe hands.

“No council though is immune to the current economic situation or the continued reduction in government support.

Cllr Mike Sole described the plan as a “budget of common sense”
Cllr Mike Sole described the plan as a “budget of common sense”

“Unless there is a significant change in local government funding, our ability to deliver the same services, at the same levels will be challenging.

“Over the next three years we will take tough decisions when we need to, but we will listen and work with residents to build a council that cares and a council that always remembers that it is your money that we are spending, and we will not waste it nor fritter it away on unsound commercial investments.”

Opposition group leader Cllr Rachel Carnac (Con) said the “fiscal prudence” of the previous Tory administration “has resulted in more financial stability” for the council.

She added: “Unfortunately this Labour – Lib Dem administration looks set to blow this on a range of vanity projects while also laying a heavy hand on businesses through hiking parking charges and fees.”

The Conservative opposition on the council - turfed out of administration at the last election in May 2023 - have been critical of the coalition’s planned reopening of the mothballed Sturry Road Park and Ride from April - at the cost of £232,500.

Cllr Carnac added: “I hope even if the administration doesn’t want to listen to me and my Conservative colleagues this evening that they will listen to the businesses and residents across the district.

‘Over the next three years we will take tough decisions when we need to...’

“Our coastal and rural communities are not like Canterbury.”

Green leader Cllr Clare Turnbull was also critical, saying “the new administration has not fixed the previous administration’s lacklustre regard for climate change in council business”.

“The impact of every council project should be assessed for its contribution to lowering emissions, and that nothing should be spent until this is done,” she argued.

There was more than two hours of debate on the budget, with the Conservative opposition proposing a raft of amendments, all of which were defeated.

They proposed changes including the reinstatement of three hours free parking at William Street car park in Herne Bay, slight increases on the charges for council–owned garages, and abolishing the planned Canterbury “market manager” position.

CCC is set to hire a manager to help run the reinstated city-centre market in Canterbury, as well as other markets and festivals around the district at a cost of £45,000 - but the Tory group instead suggested the council seek to outsource the role rather than doing it in-house.

Budget papers also show that the council has planned to make £700,000 of “as yet unidentified savings,” and is going to use £427,000 of its reserves in the general budget.

A council spokesman explained: "The extra £700,000 shown in savings was planned for 2024/25 in 2022 and will be found through the council being more efficient because of our new way of working, and making best use of technology."

The council’s new budget passed, with 25 votes in favour, six against, and three abstentions.

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