CONTROVERSIAL plans to raise council tax to cover the damage caused by the Covid-19 crisis were revealed by Vale of White Horse District Council.

The local authority set out budget plans, which councillors said would protect frontline services, continue to support residents and businesses through the Covid-19 crisis.

The budget would result in an increase of less than 10p per week on Band D Council Tax – a proposal which will be discussed by the council in a meeting today.

Annual council tax will hit £141.69 for services provided by the district council.

This is up by five pounds from £136.69 this year.

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The Vale currently has the 15th lowest council tax in the country for a shire district and significantly lower than the national average of £194.22.

The extra cash in the district council's pocket would also help stabilise its finances for the medium term.

Councillor Andy Crawford, who is cabinet member for finance at the council, revealed that despite the proposed budget increase, they will still be facing 'significant financial challenges'.

He commented: "This year we are required to adopt a budget under extremely challenging circumstances.

"As a result of Covid-19, we have had to re-direct significant resources in order to provide additional vital support for our residents and local businesses.

"We recently adopted our new 2020-2025 Corporate Plan, and we will continue to work towards our key priorities such as working as a council and with others to tackle the climate emergency, and to ensure our own long-term financial stability.

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"Like many other councils, we still face significant financial challenges and we continue to urge the government to address this situation as a matter of urgency."

Mr Crawford revealed that otherwise, there is a 'genuine risk' that vital public services could be put at risk as already seen in other local authorities.

Since the pandemic began, the district council has re-allocated significant resources in order to provide vital support for residents and businesses across the district.

This has included administering more than 3,300 Covid-19 grant payments to local businesses, who have suffered during the pandemic and required a financial boost.

The help totalled more than £20 million.

A spokesperson for the Vale commented on the number of people supported: "We provided the new Community Support Hub, supporting 5,208 vulnerable residents, including providing direct assistance for 785 people.

"It is currently expected that this work will need to continue well into 2021.

"The council's income also remains significantly affected by the Covid-19 restrictions."

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The spokesperson added that like many other councils, the Vale still faces 'significant' financial challenges, which have been caused by years of reduced funding from government, and the lack of clarity about the future of local authority financing.

Along with the other Oxfordshire councils, the Vale has repeatedly called on the Government to urgently provide additional funding to help ensure the future of its vital public services.

In May last year, the Vale council joined other local authorities who sent an urgent letter to the Government claiming that they were facing a combined shortfall of £100m funding.

This was because of the unexpected extra costs caused by the Covid-19 crisis.

At the time the district councils, which look after housing, planning permission, bin collections and leisure centres, were facing multi-million pound black holes.

The Vale of White Horse faced a £1.8m shortfall and was given £1.4m by the Government.

It was also revealed it had no free reserves.

The budget report was considered at the council's scrutiny committee on Monday.

Then, the council chaired by leader Emily Smith will meet today to debate and finally vote on the proposed.