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Big rise in council tax bills

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AVERAGE council tax bills in the county are to rise by more than four times the rate of inflation this year. A 9.2 per cent increase was voted through at Kent County Council’s annual budget meeting.

It will mean the average bill for Band D homes – those valued at between £68,000 and 88,000 – will rise by about £64 to £758. That equates to an extra £1.23 per week. Kent’s increase places it about average for county councils.

County Hall’s Conservative leaders warned that even though KCC was ploughing more money into its social services budget, there was a danger that care for the elderly and vulnerable could be compromised.

Leader Sandy Bruce-Lockhart said: “I have great concerns over social services and the risk of continuously providing services for the most vulnerable people in society with a budget which is increasingly under-funded. I hope people will understand why their council tax has to increase specifically to address this and helps children and the elderly.”

The tax increase was higher than KCC wanted but struck the right balance between cost, value and what Kent residents wanted from their public services, he added.

Opposition Labour leader Cllr Mike Eddy said KCC was setting a standstill budget which would see no new investment in services.

Labour unsuccessfully called for the tax increase to rise to 9.9per cent to release an extra £2.5million for social services.

“The budget is not committed to doing anything except maintain the status quo. We know that social services are under pressure but KCC has not made life any easier for itself by an over-reliance on the privare sector,” said Cllr Eddy.

He warned that the £8.2million extra for social services would end up being paid to the owners of private care homes to meet rising costs and Kent was paying the price for selling off its old peoples homes.

Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Trudy Dean complained that 9.2 per cent increase would hit the worse off and those on fixed incomes, such as pensioners.

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