Ratepayers in a Northumberland town are facing an increase in their council tax after councillors agreed to more than double their part of the bill.
People in Cramlington are facing a big hike after its town council voted to put up its portion of the overall bill by more than 100%.
This comes on top of Northumberland County Council having already said all taxpayers would face an increase in the authority’s part of the bill of 2%.
The Labour-controlled town council last night said the hike is necessary to fund the improvements and projects it has planned, and hit out at previous Liberal Democrat rulers for setting a deliberately low budget.
The town council has agreed to increase the precept for band A properties, which make up 54% of all homes in the town, from £25.19 to £64.70, band B from £29.38 to £75.34, band C from £33.23 to £86.10 and band D from £37.78 to £96.87.
The leader of the council’s Labour group Alan Hepple said: “In recent years the reluctance of the previous Liberal administration of the town council to recognise the issues facing Cramlington has resulted in a low budget that has not allowed the council the necessary resources to deliver the improvements which residents demand.
“Elsewhere town councils have taken a different view and recognised their important role and increased their charge to a level which has allowed real improvements to the fabric of their town. Already Blyth makes a charge of £94 and I believe this is likely to increase substantially.
“So even with these increases, Cramlington Town Council will still have one of the lowest charges in south east Northumberland.”
He added: “The town council wants to progress some major new initiatives over the coming year. We are preparing a landscaping strategy which will see environmental improvements to the approaches to the town, particularly around the new hospital.
“We also intend to undertake a programme of essential works such as the painting of railings and lamp posts, better litter collection and providing steel fencing to our allotment sites. But most importantly we are entering into a partnership with the county council which will see a street care and environment team set up to work full time in Cramlington.”
Coun Hepple also pointed out that the town council had last year received £56,000 from the county council passing on Council Tax Benefit Support Grant, which would not be happening this year.
Yet Jeff Reid, leader of the Lib Dems in Northumberland, said: “The people of Cramlington will be outraged that in these tough times Labour are giving them such a swingeing rise in their precept - especially after Labour leaders at County Hall just announced their plans to put council tax up by nearly 2%, even though they had the chance to take Government support and freeze it.
“The Labour councillors on Cramlington Town Council must have short memories, given that they spent four years when it was controlled by the Lib Dems telling us that we should not be hiking people’s taxes. Using Blyth’s high precept as an excuse is laughable given that it’s Labour in Blyth who have decided to hike that by over 60% as well. Labour might be blasé about charging people more, but when money is tight, every penny matters.”