Hertfordshire Conservative County Councillors have voted through a Council tax increase of 1.99%, the maximum they can increase the tax by without taking it to a county-wide referendum.
In a highly controversial budget Hertfordshire Conservatives have proposed widespread cuts which will include buses and library services.
The Conservative-run council has rejected the Coalition Government's offer of £5.2m of extra funding if it did not increase the council tax.
The council tax raise and cuts to services will mean that the Conservative-run council will now be able to increase its reserves of money for a "rainy day" from £146m to £154m. They Conservative-run council also has a current collection round surplus of £5.9m.
Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Democrat Group, Stephen Giles-Medhurst commented: "I am appalled. The County Council clearly has to be careful and look after taxpayers' money properly, but right now putting up council tax by almost 2 percent and also hitting services to the elderly and vulnerable leave a bad taste in the mouth. We all know
times are tough, but the Liberal Democrat Group have looked long and hard at the options available to us and we proposed an alternative budget that ring-fences essential services, restores cuts and freezes council tax whilst cutting waste and non-essential spending, and maximising income."
Included within the Liberal Democrat budget amendment was an extra £4.4m revenue spend that reversed cuts to mobile library services, buses, and school crossing patrols, allowed for councillors to restore street lights at night, ensured the gritting of roads outside schools, money for school uniforms for families in need, and also the extension of the apprenticeships scheme. On the capitalside, the Liberal Democrats proposed £2m for a new food relief programme, an extra £6m for highways and foot-way repairs and an extra £1.5m on a schools maintenance programme; all without increasing the council tax.
The Liberal Democrat budget amendment was lost and in a surprise move the smaller Labour Group refused to support it.
Paul Zukowskyj, Liberal Democrat Finance and Regeneration spokesperson said "I am appalled that the Conservative administration is seeking to impose a tax increase on the people of Hertfordshire whilst refusing Government funding of over £5m to freeze the council tax. This year HCC Conservatives have decided they would rather raise the council tax by as much as they can while slashing services - perhaps because it’s a General Election year they hope their tax rise will go unnoticed!"
Stephen Giles-Medhurst added: "Perhaps they are putting money away to save up to try to cut the council tax in two years time before the next County elections - we will see.”