Council tax is set to rise again in Bromley, with leader Colin Smith talking up the authority’s position after a decade of continually shrinking budgets.

Councillors voted through a 3.99 per cent council tax rise at February’s full meeting of council, included as part of a raft of budget measures the authority is set to adopt over the coming financial year.

Cllr Smith said the authority had managed to shave £100m each year from the council’s core budget over the last decade.

“It seems incredible an organisation can take that out of the budget but it should show what can be achieved if the will is there,” he said.

While he talked up a Government funding boost for the coming year, he said the authority still faced a budget gap of £16.9m by 2023-24.

“We recognise the Government’s assistance this year…but the 3.99 per cent rise is important for the coming year to maintain mid-term discipline around the budget,” he said. 

Two per cent of the rise includes the social care precept and includes the Mayor for London’s GLA precept, which accounts for approximately a quarter of the overall Council Tax charge.

The ward member for Bickley added the council  had made tough decisions in previous years to avoid a budget blow-out.

“We all know Northhampton,” he said, referring to the Conservative-led county council which is in the process of being abolished after continually overspending its budget by millions of pounds. 

“They exemplified why doing what we’re doing is the right thing to do. We don’t ever want to do that in Bromley and we shan’t. 

“If we stay on top of our cost pressures, don’t overspend in our departmental budgets if we continue to bear down on cost wherever we can…we’re nearly where we need to be.

“There’s many councils now who have only taken the easy option so far…and they’re going to find it really difficult if the Government doesn’t call off the dogs.”

An alternative budget was introduced by the Labour opposition group, with leader Angela Wilkins saying the party took “some solace that some of our previous proposals have been implemented”.

She said Labour would overhaul social and affordable housing building in the borough, as well as spending millions more on achieving zero carbon emissions and beefing up social care.

“The major difference between Labour and Conservative budgets is summed up in one word: caring,” she said. 

“Caring more for people and the difficulties they face, caring less for investments and rates of return.”

“Our amendment for an alternative budget is based on caring.”

Instead of the £875k currently budgeted for zero carbon measures and improved air quality, Labour would put forward £5m, among its “fully costed investment” in the borough.

Labour also shared plans for an extra £100k for mental health support targeted at young people in the borough, as well as £300k towards new, modern day centre provision.

Fellow Labour member Cllr Simon Jeal took aim at adult social care and the heavily delayed Government green paper which would provide clarity for councils currently stretched by the department.

“Boris Johnson promised to sort out social care once and for all but all we’ve seen so far is cross party talks,” he said. 

“Whether we see these proposals before we see the bridge from Scotland to Ireland, I don’t know.”  

Returning serve was Conservative portfolio holder for resources, commissioning and contract management, Graham Arthur.

“So much of this is driven by good intention and I don’t want to rubbish it, but as an overall package just chucking money at something, I can’t support it at all,” he said. 

It saw Labour’s amendment voted down, with the Conservative majority instead voting in favour of the original proposal for the upcoming year.

Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated an additional London GLA rate would be implemented alongside the council tax. The GLA rate is actually included in the council tax.