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Council tax in Brent could rise by 4 per cent after six-year freeze

PUBLISHED: 17:35 25 January 2016 | UPDATED: 18:05 25 January 2016

Cllr Muhammed Butt, left and Cllr Michael Pavey

Cllr Muhammed Butt, left and Cllr Michael Pavey

Archant

A council tax hike of four per cent is on the horizon for all Brent residents following a six-year freeze.

The increase is being proposed among a number of cost-saving options to meet a savings target of £55million by 2019.

The hike, proposed for the next three years, is on the cards after the government relaxed the rules on freezing council tax payments in the Spending Review in November last year.

The review allows councils to increase council tax by two per cent, which must be ringfenced for spending on social care, in addition to existing council powers to hike the basic level of tax by another two per cent without a referendum.

A rise of four per cent would be the maximum possible increase allowed under government rules.

For residents, this means an extra £2.50 a month if they are in Band D, the rate at which other bands are calculated. Council chiefs estimate the tax hike could bring in an extra £3.6m a year.

The decision is due to be rubberstamped by the council at the end of February.

Local resident Emma Tate challenged council chiefs at a budget consultation meeting in Willesden Library in the High Road on Monday, part of a series of public consultations on looming council budget cuts.

She said: “If you don’t have much money, you don’t have much money. There are people who are going to be badly affected. Some families are going to be really suffering.”

But deputy council leader Cllr Pavey said: “Nothing is being pushed through. We wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to listen to the views of the community. We’re here to listen, particularly on the views to council tax.”

Sujata Aurora, from anti-cuts campaign group Brent Fightback, said the rise would hit welfare claimants hardest, because Brent would take those who can’t pay to court. They would then be smacked with charges of £130, on top of the original council tax bill.

But Brent Council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt reassured the audience, and said nothing had been decided.

He said: “If people do get into arrears we’re not going to go in heavy handed, we’re not going to kick them out. We’ll make sure they get the support, that they are claiming all the benefits to which they are entitled.

“We’ve changed our language and changed our forms to make it easier for people to contact us.

“If people wilfully choose not to pay their council tax, we will go after them, because they are the ones who are stopping me from providing those services for those who actually need it.”

The remaining Brent budget consultation meetings are next week on:

February 1, 7pm-10pm at The Library at Willesden Green, 95 High Road;

February 2, 7pm-10pm, The Roundwood Youth Centre, Longstone Avenue, Harlesden;

February 3, 7pm-10pm, Main Hall, Kingsbury High School, Princes Avenue, Kingsbury.

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