Waltham Forest approves council tax hike

Waltham Forest Council has approved a council tax rise of almost six per cent in April.

The budget approved on Thursday will see band D council tax bills rise to £2,055, an increase of £116 per year.

The council’s share of the local tax will increase by 4.99 per cent, the maximum allowed without holding a local vote, while the increase in the Mayor of London’s share will bring the total to 5.9 per cent.

Council leader Grace Williams said her party understands how “difficult” paying more will be for residents but said the increase is needed to “pay for vital services”.

To cope with a predicted budget gap of £11.5m, the council plans to dip into its savings and has refused to publish details of £6.7m in budget cuts it is planning next financial year.

Earlier this week, a council spokesperson claimed the savings are “normal budget management” that will not impact front-line services.

By April, the money the council has set aside will have dropped to just £89m and is predicted to fall a further £19m in the following year.

The council previously admitted using reserves is “not sustainable” but argued it can “plug funding gaps” in the short-term instead of cutting services.

During the budget debate, Labour rejected a Conservative proposal to freeze council tax.

Group leader Emma Best argued the council should cut more services instead as the borough’s families “will always be better” at spending their own money.

She added: “Labour in London will always be the gift that keeps on taking, they are out of touch with residents and out of touch with reality.”

The Conservatives proposed keeping band D bills at £1,978 a year by saving £6m through cuts to spending on furniture and equipment, “fees and services” and special allowances for councillors, as well as by increasing income from the planning department.

In response, Cllr Williams questioned whether the Conservative group “even understand[s]” how council finances work.

She added: “Do you understand that a loss of council tax in one year will lead to a loss in years thereafter?”

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter