RESIDENTS of Witney, Eynsham and Chipping Norton will be asked to pay an extra five pounds on average in council tax for local services from April.

The tax hike will mean that the average Band D household in West Oxfordshire will pay £109.38 Over the course of the year between April 2021 and March 2022, to help fund a £14m budget for services including bin collections, leisure centres, and social housing.

When added on top of tax increases by Oxfordshire County Council and Thames Valley Police, both of which also claim money from council tax, the average home in West Oxfordshire will pay £1,913.77 over the course of the year.

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As the budget was passed on Wednesday last week (February 24), the Conservative councillor for Brize Norton and Shilton, Alex Postan, said it was a ‘triumph’ that no frontline services had faced cuts despite the pandemic’s impact on council finances across the UK.

The budget was backed unanimously by different political groups on the council.

West Oxfordshire District Council’s spending plans for 2021/22 include a £5 increase on garden waste charges, and plans to keep a £200,000 grants fund for voluntary organisations in the district.

The council has also agreed that all the car parks it owns and maintains will be free of charge over the year, with the aim of giving shops a boost in trade when they are allowed to reopen.

Contracts with companies which help to carry out council services, Publica and Ubico, have also been ‘trimmed’ in the budget, so there is less strain of the public purse.

The results of a survey on the budget were also published in a document alongside the spending plans.

West Oxfordshire District Council

West Oxfordshire District Council

This suggested most people in West Oxfordshire want to see the council use a mixture of cuts to services and dipping into savings known as reserves to help it balance the books in the medium-term future.

All councillors present at the meeting, 41, voted in favour of both the budget and the increase in council tax.

The council’s Conservative leader, Michele Mead, said: The effects of Covid 19 have been almost unprecedented challenge for us that changed almost everything overnight.

“Through the onset of the virus and various changes the council like our residents have had to act quickly to support others.”

She added: “In presenting this budget it is important to mention some key points. We will maintain all services. Our residents can expect the same services they have received from us in the past to continue.”

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The Liberal Democrat group leader Andy Graham said his party would vote with the budget, despite not agreeing with everything within it, because there had been collaboration on tough decisions between all political groups and finance officers.

He added: “I also feel quite strongly that there will be difficulties continuing in this current year.

“Those people who are affected by the council tax rise, this will be trying time for those who have lost their jobs, who have been furloughed or whose businesses have gone.”

Labour group leader Duncan Enright also praised the collaboration on the budget, and added his concerns about ‘bouncing back’ after the pandemic ends.

Mr Enright said: “We are particularly concerned, as the leader is, about the pandemic but also our ability to bounce back and that includes local businesses who are really going to be struggling when they reopen, as we hope they do soon.”