COUNCILLORS have defended raising taxes by 66 per cent, saying it will allow them to do a lot more for Oxford’s largest estate.

A steep hike in its share of council tax has been approved by Blackbird Leys Parish Council which will see its annual budget soar from £31,000 last year to £54,000.

Chairman John Dillon said in reality it will mean most people only pay on average 15 pence more a week and the council will spend all the extra cash on improving the estate.

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But others have criticised the lack of consultation and said the decision was made behind closed doors.

Mr Dillon said: “A lot of us are new to our roles and we decided there was so much more we could be doing.

Oxford Mail:

File photo of John Dillon with, from left, former chairman Gordon Roper, Ann Booker and Daniel Jones. Picture: Damian Halliwell.

“Although the numbers look large, it will actually only work out as a modest increase for most households.

“We ran through all the arguments and decided that, for most people, it is affordable.

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“It will go to youth projects, putting on free community events and an office so people always have a place they can go if they need to speak to us.

“We’re planning to do a lot more than we have in the past.”

At a sometimes ill-tempered meeting of the council last week, residents called for the council to U-turn on its decision, saying they should go back to the drawing board and consider a smaller increase instead.

Oxford Mail:

A vote to scrap the plans was defeated by four to three and councillors were seen threatening to resign in the aftermath.

It means the estate’s residents will be hit with a four-pronged increase in their bill this year with Oxford City Council, Oxfordshire County Council and the police and crime commissioner all stating their intention to ask for more as well.

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But unlike these other bodies, the parish council does not have to hold a referendum if it wants to raise the bill above three per cent, and can charge what it likes.

Blackbird Leys parish council tax is one of the lowest in the city but does not have responsibility for any assets, unlike other councils.

Mr Dillon said the intention was to ask the people what they thought of the plan but this wasn’t possible in the time given, particularly due to changes in the council leadership and clerk earlier in the year.

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City councillor Linda Smith said: "I would have been supportive of a small increase but they have to be mindful of the fact they are asking for £7.50 a year extra on top of the thousands people already pay.

"That’s an hour’s worth of work for a lot of people, it’s a lot to ask in one go and they should expect a bit of a backlash.

"They need to show it is worth it and be a lot more outward facing."