Council tax is rising by £5 in the Vale of White Horse and concerns have been raised over the pressure the increase will put on people's budgets.

Vale of White Horse District Council is set to agree a balanced budget for 2022/23 on Wednesday. The council has said it aims to protect frontline services, fund environmental projects, make improvements to leisure and safety and keep Council Tax increase to under the rate of inflation.

Spending has been allocated to areas identified as important to residents in the Vale’s new Corporate Plan, which includes more than £500k for tree planting.

£525,000 could be spent on environmental projects including a five-year programme of Climate Change grants and for tree planting and £1,572,000 for leisure projects in Faringdon, Wantage, Abingdon and Botley.

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Neil Fawcett, Liberal Democrat district councillor for Abingdon said: “For a £5 a year rise we are actually doing quite a lot with this budget.”

Money will be spent on sports facilities and on upgrading heating systems to low carbon heating, in light of figures that showed leisure centres are responsible for 51 per cent of the vales carbon emissions.

A significant amount of money will also be spent on tree planting projects, with planting organised by environmental group Abingdon Carbon Cutters to plant trees near Rye Meadow car park already underway.

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The reduction in government funding and with Covid-19 both reducing income and increasing costs means the council is more reliant on council tax and other income to help support its services. However, the Vale has one of the lowest council tax rates in the country for a district council, charging only £146.69 per annum to each Band D household for the services it provides, which is more than 25 per cent lower than the national average.

This year’s £5 increase will be less than the rate of inflation.

Read also: South Oxfordshire Councillors to approve 2022/23 budget

Mr Fawcett says the rise in council tax is necessary, but he understands the pressures the rise puts on people who are struggling financially.

He said: “It is absolutely the case that we understand a lot of people are going to be struggling particularly with the cost of fuel going up. As councillors we all experience that as well and the Vale has increased the support for the least well off in terms of council tax discounts, we are doing what we can. But the reality is that the Government significantly under-funds all local councils.”

Conservative district councillor Ben Mabbett said: "We are at a time where we have a huge amount of pressure on people's budget and the council should think hard about whether we actually need to raise council tax and if we can freeze it at all. It is not a light decision to raise council tax."

Councillors will consider the Vale’s 2022/23 budget at the council meeting on February 16.

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