Council tax to rise by 4.95% in Milton Keynes despite council’s £175m stash of savings

Council tax
Council tax

“Cash-strapped” Milton Keynes Council is cutting services and raising council tax by 4.95% while sitting on tens of millions of pounds worth of savings.

Over the past two years alone the Labour administration has stashed away almost £55m, bringing the total reserve fund up to £175m.

Cabinet bosses state the money is needed for growth. But they also blame city business rates, saying so many companies are winning appeals that millions could be eaten up in reimbursements.

Conservatives believe the stash would be better used on vital actions such as reducing homelessness.

“This is one hell of a rainy day fund,” said Tory finance councillor Edith Bald, who is hitting out at Labour’s newly-published draft plans for next year’s budget.

These plans include reducing the graffiti removal service, taking away yellow grit bins and reducing the budget to help people with learning difficulties.

Pete Marland

Pete Marland

Edith said: “This budget has rumbled Labour’s lack of respect for taxpayers.

“Residents don’t want council bosses sitting on cash; they want it helping to get rough sleepers off the streets, building council houses, fixing potholes and maintaining green spaces.”

She has accused Labour of being “hugely hypocritical” by blaming central government for the £14m savings it must make this year when its reserve coffers are so healthy.

All councils hold a percentage of their budget in reserve as a contingency fund.

MK Council leader Pete Marland said much of the extra £55m was set aside as a prudent measure due to the to deal the large number of ongoing appeals over business rates this year.

“A cross party scrutiny committee undertook a comprehensive review of every single penny in reserves only last month, and the levels are projected to fall in forthcoming years as we move ahead with community-led regeneration,” he said.

“This shambolic Tory response to the budget is another example of how they’d rather say anything than address the truth about their cuts and the impact on they have on services.”

Pete said Milton Keynes was facing its biggest ever financial challenge, with the council forced to make £40m of savings between now and 2020.

“The demand for services such as social care is increasing, the cost protecting our most vulnerable children is increasing, and because of vicious cuts and disastrous housing policies, we are having to spend more and more each year picking up the pieces on homelessness,” he said.

But the good news in the draft budget is that weekly bin and recycling collections will continue and there will be no cuts to libraries or public transport and no increase to standard of premium parking charges.