Gravesham council tax set to rise as subsidy rejected

A local authority in Kent is planning an increase in council tax despite the government offering a subsidy of £150,000 to freeze it.

Labour-led Gravesham Borough Council wants to increase its rate by 0.4%, which equates to more than £5 a year on band D properties.

Council leader John Burden warned there would be "deep cuts" in services if bills were not raised.

He said accepting the subsidy would mean far higher rises in future years.

Mr Burden said the government incentive for councils to freeze tax bills was only for one year, and there would be nothing in subsequent years.

"Nobody's happy with any bills going up. The alternative is deeper and harder cuts next year," he said.

"If the government gave us the money on a long-term basis, that would be completely different."

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles has told councillors they have a "moral duty" to sign up to the government's council tax freeze.

He said council tax rises were a "kick in the teeth for hard-working, decent taxpayers".

Mr Burden said the rise for the year 2012-2013 would enable the authority to raise about £210,000.

"Even with this slight increase, the council faces a difficult few years balancing its budget against swingeing cuts in government grants.

"There is no advantage in using taxpayers' money to artificially freeze council tax here only to have to buy a bigger axe next year."

The budget goes before the cabinet on 6 February for approval and the final decision will be taken at the full council meeting on 21 February.

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