Beds, Herts & Bucks

Milton Keynes Council agrees 1.95% council tax rise

Councillors in Milton Keynes have agreed to raise council tax by 1.95% in a bid to deal with a £16.7m reduction in government funding.

Residents also face cuts to bus services, higher parking charges and a £10 fee for bulky waste collection.

The Conservative administration called it "the most challenging budget in the authority's history".

Opposition councillors said the cuts would "impact on the poor and vulnerable the most".

Council leader Andrew Geary said the cuts were a result of large cuts in central government funding for the third year in a row.

He said freezing council tax would have been a "politically easy option" which would cost £5m in the long term.

"Inevitably, in some areas, this has meant a reduction of services which in an ideal world none of us would have like to have brought about," he said.

'Not popular'

The tax increase is just below the 2% rise that, under government rules, would trigger a public referendum.

Mr Geary admitted it was "not popular" with Department of Communities and Local Government [secretary of state] Eric Pickles, but "it's important that we set a budget locally".

The budget also includes cuts and amendments to 10 bus services to save nearly £280,000.

Town centre parking charges will go up from £1.20 per hour to £1.40 in premium rate spaces and from 30p to 40p in standard rate.

There will also be reductions in some children's services.

Liberal Democrat councillor Douglas McCall said: "We understand the size of the cake is getting smaller, our concern is how the cake is being cut up.

"The way the Conservatives have cut the budget is impacting the poor and vulnerable the most.

"Why try to demand more money from people who can't pay it, it's like being in Dickensian Britain again."

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