Why Surrey Heath Council Tax should not have gone up

Here is a summary of my speech to Full Council tonight opposing the 1.94% Council Tax increase.

Our responsibility as local politicians is to use our resources wisely.  Whilst Surrey Heath cannot help the cuts made by the government, they are responsible for decisions on the monies they have been given and to spend those wisely.

1) Are there any areas of wasteful or questionable spending?

– Really enjoy going to the theatre but should we really be spending £279 000 subsidising a theatre when huge cuts have to be made?  Even this appears to be the low side making an assumption that the theatre café would make £85 000 income over the year? This is not a sustainable level of subsidy.

·  We need some advertising and marketing but do we need 13 different advertising/marketing budgets? This needs to be sharper and more innovative in approach using the internet wherever we can.

– No more pet projects of councillors – we cannot afford to waste Council money on camel statues or other similar schemes.

– Cllr allowances – There are far too many highly questionable “non-jobs” for Cllrs with a total cost of £282k. Almost every Conservative Cllr has received a “special” allowance at some point over the last 4 years.  At a County level, it is completely appalling for Conservative Cllrs to vote for increases of up to 60% whilst considering closing Pinehurst residential home and Mytchett Children’s Centre serving our community. Even many Conservatives recognise that this is an embarrassment.

2) Are there any areas for potential income?

Need to be far more innovative thinking about funding for discretionary services such as museum, theatre and parks. We have areas of poverty but also areas of huge affluence and especially around wills and legacies where families of loved ones would want to have a permanent recognition through trees, benches, exhibitions, artefacts, sponsorship. Other public bodies do this – so should we.

3) If you have addressed waste and ensured you have considered all income streams, raising Council Tax should then be considered as a last resort and only to the level which is necessary.

As this Council is still wasting money and not looking at all alternative income streams, I cannot support the proposed rise of 1.94%.

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