Published: 14:08, 08 February 2021
| Updated: 18:04, 08 February 2021
A local authority in Kent has proposed freezing council tax from April as more residents and businesses face financial hardship from the pandemic.
Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite (Con) has pledged to keep the fees paid to his Conservative administration at the same level for the next financial year.
If approved next month, hundreds of Band D householders would continue to pay £181 for the borough council portion of the council tax bill. The cash goes towards a range of services such as weekly bin collections, parking and leisure.
Cllr Kite, whose Tory party holds 28 out of 42 seats, said: "Here in Dartford we listen to residents, do what they want and try to keep tax low."
This would be the seventh time the local authority has frozen taxes over the last decade, after rises were put on hold during the years of austerity from 2010 to 2017, set at £162 for a Band D home, to aid cash-strapped residents.
The district and borough council precept makes up just over 10% of the total council tax fee that residents pay each year. It does not include the extra money paid towards the police, fire service or Kent County Council (KCC).
Cllr Sacha Gosine (Lab), Dartford council's main opposition leader, has supported the move, but vowed to keep a "close eye" on the proposals.
'Here in Dartford we listen to residents, do what they want and try to keep tax low...'
The Ebbsfleet councillor said: "We support that council tax is not being put up, but I would like to see more of the detail.
"If you imagine Dartford council as a car dealer, you do not want to be left in a situation where we can make the horn beep louder, but cannot fix the broken brakes."
Out of 14 local authorities in Kent, Dartford is the only council to have formally proposed a freeze on tax amid Covid.
This comes three days (Feb 11) before County Hall councillors are expected to vote through contentious plans for a tax hike of 5% - £67.50 for Band D homes - affecting 1.5million residents in the 12 districts, excluding Medway.
KCC covers costs related to care and nursing homes, pothole repairs and school transport provision.
Other district and borough councils in the county have considered increasing their annual fees by around £5, including Ashford, Canterbury, Folkestone and Tonbridge and Malling, varying from between 2% to 3% rises.
Outside of Kent, Wandsworth council in London has announced this month it will freeze part of next year's tax while Plaid Cymru in Wales and the Scottish National Party (SNP) in Scotland have also been considering the move.
Concluding, Cllr Kite, of Longfield, said: "We know that almost every other council in the country is likely to put tax up this year, but we have never been the sort of people to look around and see what other councils are doing.
"We look at things long term and if we think we can manage, then we do."
A key decision will be made by all Dartford councillors at a virtual budget vote on Monday March 1, which will start from 5pm.