LEADER Neil Jory has admitted West Devon Borough Council’s modest tax increase would not be welcomed as residents face a hefty hike in energy and food bills.

Hub committee members have recommended to full council that the borough’s council tax should increase by £5 a year.

Cllr Jory said: ‘Any increase will not be welcome at the present time, but it is an increase of £5 per annum and less than 10p per week extra, (which is) 2.1 per cent and way below the rate of inflation.’

Deputy leader Ric Cheadle added: ‘This year is going to be no different from any year, but it’s probably more pertinent to say that it falls to us to issue bills and this year there are going to be some nasty surprises, not council tax, but coming from the cost of living rise and inflation.’

He said when the rise went before council for confirmation, it was important to point out the financial challenge the authority faces and how they are doing their best to keep down costs.

The committee agreed to the increase against a backdrop of predicted hikes in energy, fuel and food costs, with Tavistock councillor Mandy Ewings estimating she faced an increase of 50 per cent in her electricity and gas bills.

Cash conscious councillors accept they face financial question marks next year despite slashing more than £2-million off their budget.

The borough council’s coffers have been battered by a loss of income during the Covid-19 pandemic, plus the withdrawal of the Government’s revenue support grant in 2020.

The West council tax increase would to raise an extra £105,000 for the next three years.

A report to the borough council’s influential hub committee, compiled by finance director Lisa Buckle, pointed out the authority is in a good position despite the pandemic because they had been careful with their money.

She said: ‘West Devon has continued to work in partnership with South Hams District Council which has allowed West Devon to achieve annual savings of £2.2-million and more importantly protect all statutory front line services.

‘Between both councils the annual shared services savings being achieved are over £6-million per annum. However, the councils continue to face considerable financial challenges as a result of uncertainty in the wider economy and constraints on public sector spending.’

Borough, or district, councils have been told the maximum they can raise council tax is by £5 per property unless they want to spark a council tax referendum. The maximum does not apply to town or parish councils.

Councillors were presented with a table of council tax bills from Devon County Council for this year which saw their demands increase this year by £71.82 per Band D property from the previous 12 months, or 4.99 per cent.

The borough council is the collecting agency for other authorities.

The average parish or town council town demand increased by £87.11, or 4.82 per cent, although Tavistock Town Council is keeping next year’s increase to under three per cent.

She added: ‘Of an average Band D council tax within the borough of £2,166.58, an amount of £241.63 is the element of a council tax bill set by West Devon Borough Council. Therefore, 11 pence of every £1 paid in council tax is received by West Devon Borough Council to pay for our services.

‘The rest of the council tax bill is set by Devon County Council, the fire (service), the police and town and parish councils to fund the services they provide.’

She said the largest parish precepts in 2021/22 were North Tawton (£193,450), Tavistock (£181,240) and Okehampton Town (£133,930), with the smallest Bondleigh (£3.40).