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Conservative Kent county councillors who were suspended over not supporting council tax hike get reinstated to party

Two Conservative county councillors who had been suspended from the party have been reinstated.

Councillor Paul Cooper and Gary Cooke, who both represent divisions in Maidstone, lost the party whip after saying that they would not be supporting plans for a 5% increase in the council tax this year.

Cllr Paul Cooper
Cllr Paul Cooper

They have now had the whip restored after 21 days, meaning they are both able to continue to stand in the forthcoming county council election in May as Conservative candidates.

Both had publicly set out their opposition to the council tax rise although in the vote on the county council's budget recently, they abstained rather than voted against the increase, which has seen average household bills for KCC’s share of the tax rise by £60.

The two councillors were reported to be around 20 in the Conservative group to have expressed misgivings over the party’s initial budget, partly because some of the additional income was to be used to replenish the authority’s reserves - money saved for use in the event of an unexpected crisis.

The council is drawing about £5m from its reserves to address shortfalls in its budget - a lower figure than originally proposed.

KCC has also announced that those households where residents already qualify for some kind of discount through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme will additionally get a further £50 cut from their bills.

Cllr Gary Cooke
Cllr Gary Cooke

Despite extra money the government is allocating to local authorities to help those struggling with their bills, all parties at KCC have united and agreed to send a joint letter to the government urging a review.

The leader of the council, Cllr Roger Gough, described the tax as regressive while the opposition Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Rob Bird labelled it as “unsustainable.”

The government has ruled out major reform, saying it has no plan to carry out a revaluation or to change the current banding system.

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