Basildon becomes latest council to raise council tax

Council tax is being raised by Basildon Borough Council, which will also stop paying for extra police and keeping street lights on late at night.

The amount of council tax residents pay to the council will increase by 2.97 per cent to £287.19, to help close an additional budget gap of £3.4million.

Funding to keep street lights on between 1am-5am and for additional police officers across the borough is being cut, in a move the opposition described as “an open invitation to criminals.”

Additionally, charges for optional garden waste collections are being introduced, while council house rents are being increased by 7 per cent.

Cabinet member for resources and commercial Stuart Sullivan (Con, Billericay East) said external national pressures such rising inflation had made setting a balanced budget “extremely challenging.”

He said: “But it is a challenge the administration and our officers have risen to, taking at times difficult decisions we deem necessary to not only ensure the council remains solvent, but to protect the provision of the services our residents rely on, whilst still continuing a programme of ambitious investment in our borough.”

He continued to say funding for additional police had been introduced against a backdrop of falling officer numbers but these have since increased, and that the cost of electricity for street lighting to the council has nearly doubled.

Cllr Sullivan said: “The council is no longer in a position to finance services which other bodies are obliged to provide.” He later said: “The removal of funding from both police and street lighting will be mitigated by the council continuing to fund street wardens, who are actively dedicated to disrupting criminal and antisocial activity in the borough.”

Opposition leader Councillor Maryam Yaqub (Labour, St Martin’s ) said the budget is an “open invitation to criminals” and that the administration had previously promised to prioritise tackling crime and antisocial behaviour. She said: “There will now be fewer police on our streets and those streets will be plunged into darkness.”

The council also passed an amendment by the Independent Group, which waives a premium of £14,079 for pre-payment energy meters in Langdon Hills. Group leader Councillor Kerry Smith (Ind, Nethermayne) said: “We shouldn’t be applying a premium into paying for your energy to the council if you are a council tenant.”

Other spending measures include £6.6m for a new pool for Pitsea, £5.6m on improving energy efficiency in council homes and £1m towards Laindon Community Centre. Essex County Council voted earlier this month to increase its share of council tax by £49.05 next year for a Band D property.

Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter