COUNCILLORS have defended a large increase in their authority’s share of people’s council tax by insisting the extra income will be spent on improving the community.
Billingham Town Council has come in for criticism from some residents after agreeing a 28 per cent increase in its precept from April.
But the council say that in real terms it will see taxpayers in an average Band D property paying only 7p a week more than last year.
It says the rise will hel to pay for projects in John Whitehead Park including a new community hub and cafe which is due to open next month.
And Councillor Colin Pollard, vice chairman of Billingham Town Council, stressed the real increase to taxpayers is actually 24.7 per cent when a Government grant towards council tax is taken into account.
Coun Pollard said: “We have taken extreme care when looking at this and don’t just pluck figures out the air.
“If the town wants us to do something and improve matters then we have to spend money.
“Our part of the council tax bill represents about one penny in every pound.”
The rise will see the town council collect a total of £160,213 from residents’ annual tax bills - an extra £35,384 on the previous year.
But the council has produced a leaflet to show that a Band D property will pay £18.51 towards the town council over the course of the year, or 35p a week.
The increase equates to an extra £3.66 a year, or 7p a week. Coun Ann McCoy, who also sits on Stockton Borough Council, said: “We have taken what we considered to be the best option to continue to provide services and enhance the lives of the people in Billingham.”
Diane Rickerby, the council’s executive officer, said they have been able to secure substantial funding from outside the town by working in partnership with agencies, particulary Stockton Borough Council.
That includes £27,000 towards the community hub in John Whitehead Park as well as £16,500 for outdoor exercise equipment in the park and £2,650 to renovate St Cuthberts Church Hall.
Ms Rickerby said: “That little amount of money (people will pay) is going to provide an absolutely wonderful service for the community.”
The Association of Billingham Residents group has launched an online petition against the council tax rise and needs at least 2,000 signatures for a referendum.