HEREFORDSHIRE Council leaders have proposed a council tax increase of almost five per cent for the next financial year.

The council’s cabinet last week agreed the draft budget for 2019/20, which will also see £3.9m worth of savings.

The proposals, which will be considered by full council next month, include an increase of council tax by 4.9% which includes a 2% increase to pay for adult social care.

If approved by the council, this will result in Band D property owners paying £1,514.70 to Herefordshire Council next year – this is £70.75 up from last year.

Councillor Paul Rone, who was standing in as chairman, said: “The council gross annual expenditure is in the region of £340m.

“This is funded by a combination of council tax, business rates, certain specific grants, rents received, third party contributions and income from sales and fees and charges.

“Of this £340m, £80m is ringfenced for schools.

“The remaining £260m is there to meet our statutory requirements and our service provision for communities, businesses and, more importantly, residents.”

He said in 2010/11 the grant paid to the council by the government was £60.1m but is now down to £620,000, a reduction of almost 99 per cent in 9 years.

“Despite delivering £90m worth of savings in the same period, this authority continues to deliver a balanced budget and has increased general and earmarked reserves.

“Around 70 per cent of the council’s main income stream is from council tax.”

However, opposition groups such as It’s Our County and the Green Party say they are working on producing an alternative budget.

IOC co-leader Liz Harvey said: “The vast majority of council spending continues to go on essential services for the most vulnerable people in our community (less than 2% of the county’s population), and yet these service areas continue to generate large overspends.

“In Herefordshire this means that the majority of hard working families on low incomes pay more in council tax to receive fewer and poorer services.

“If this is allowed to continue, we are in a race to the bottom. We think the council should be building on the county’s strengths rather than applying sticking plasters to its sore spots.”

Green Party leader Trish Marsh said her group was working to produce an alternative.

“We support a shift in priorities, keeping within the same spend envelope.”