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Council tax hike is voted in by Gravesham Borough Council

Gravesham’s council tax bill is going up by 1.93% – about the price of half a packet of cigarettes.

The rise works out at an extra six pence-per-week for Band D property holders, coming to £3.12 a year.

Cllr John Burden
Cllr John Burden

Council leader John Burden compared the figure to the price of “half a packet of cigarettes” per year.

The council had been waiting for the government to announce what percentage rise would trigger a referendum before making any decision.

The percentage limit was set at 2% by the government.

Gravesham’s increase was approved at a budget meeting on Tuesday night, with 22 voting for the motion and 18 Conservative councillors abstaining from the vote.

Cllr Burden (Lab) said it was a “shame” the Conservatives decided to abstain.

He said: “They couldn’t bring themselves to vote on our budget because they probably agree with it.

“It’s [the budget] putting us in a strong position where we know in the next three years we can maintain the level of services we have and now we’re looking to improve.

“We can put in a new waste system and bring in improvements in recycling, which is what people want.

“Car parks will also stay the same.”

The Conservatives did propose three amendments to the budget, but all of them were voted out.

The first included a freeze in council tax, a £30,000 grant for free use of the Woodville for local arts and theatre groups and free Saturday parking within council-owned car parks.

The second was a £100,000 grant to maintain the services provided by AGE UK North West Kent for people in Northfleet, and the third was to reduce the increase in council rents from 5.49% to 3.2%, in line with inflation.

Cllr Burden claimed the amendments “lacked substance”.

However, group leader of the opposition Cllr John Cubitt (Con) praised the budget but said turning down the amendments were a missed opportunity to “put smiles on faces”.

He said: “Should we be starting this reserve up at a time when our constituents are hurting?

“We’ve got to have reserves and be prudent, but can’t we bring a bit of sunshine and a bit of innovation and imagination and put smiles on our constituents’ faces?”

Kent County Council (KCC) has already agreed a 1.9% rise – adding an extra £20 on the average bill from them, and both Kent Fire and Rescue Service and Kent Police Authority are also increasing their share.

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