There were stormy scenes at a critically important council meeting ahead of May’s general election, which saw voting to approve the budget for the 2015/16 year.
Some of the key points were: council tax will be frozen for the fifth year running, the authority intends to maintain its reserves for ‘unexpected one-off events’ and borrow
£6 million to fund in relation to the Sittingbourne regeneration project.
The majority of members also voted to give themselves a 1% increase in members’ allowances as part of the overall budget package.
In his budget speech, Cllr Duncan Dewar-Whalley (Con), said: “This is yet another year we have been able to increase income, deliver efficiency, and protect frontline services.
“We have lost £4 million in government grants. In 2010, the grant was £12.1 million, down to £8.1 million in 2014/15 and in 2015/16 a further loss of £1.3 million.
“In the past four years we have cut council tax in real terms.”
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As new leader of the Labour group, Cllr Adam Tolhurst responded to the budget speech with his own prepared address in which he argued the council had missed out on a lot of money by not raising council tax.
The Milton Regis ward member said that because Swale’s cut of money from each household’s council tax bill is so small - just 11% - it had not made a big difference to how much people saved.
The 49-year-old said: “Seventy-three per cent of a resident’s overall council tax bill goes to KCC and they are going to be raising theirs by 1.99% for the coming year. An increase of £21.
“Now what if this council had decided not to accept a freeze and instead raised council tax year on year by about 1.99%?
“The council tax freeze grant is worth £80K and by not having a rise of up to 2% this council has missed out on raising £80,000.
“Times it by five years for a total of £400,000 not raised.”
He also went on to criticise the £14 million in reserves the council had amassed, arguing the money should be spent on improving services and took aim at the proposed additional £6 million in borrowing.