The budget for 2021/22 has been formally approved by the Full Bexley Council, confirming a 5% tax increase and over 240 job losses following a 'challenging' Covid-hit year.

Opposition Labour councillors have called the plan a "pay more, get less" budget, criticising the financial management of a council which last month required a £9 million capitalisation order.

"Savings were necessary" to balance the books for the next year, the Tory council said, but the budget has been "designed to protect priority services and address the impact of Covid."

The budget, approved by Bexley's cabinet last week, was rubber stamped by the Full Council at Wednesday night's meeting, setting out Bexley's budget and council tax plans from April 1.

It included plans to reduce funding for community libraries, cut around 16% of staffing roles at the council and a 4.99% rise in council tax.

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Councillor Teresa O'Neill OBE, Leader of the Council said: "The past year has been challenging for everyone and has had a dramatic impact on the Council's finances."

"Despite the challenges we have faced, we are still going strong.

"We continue to deliver good local services and improvements for the people who rely on us - including two new SEN schools and two new libraries - that will make life better for our residents."

Last month it was announced that Bexley, along with three other English councils, would receive a capitalisation order bailout from central government.

At Wednesday's meeting, Labour also proposed forgoing a 3% rise in councillors allowances in May 2021, and instead reinvesting the savings into local libraries, but the motion failed to get Conservative support.

Cllr Daniel Francis, Leader of Bexley Labour Group said: “Bexley has not been immune from the challenging circumstances facing local government up and down the country.

“But the Conservatives in Bexley have brought forward a budget which raises council tax by 4.99%, cuts 264 council jobs and cuts funding to vital services like libraries and reactive highways maintenance.

“This is a ‘pay more, get less’ budget, from a council that had to go cap-in-hand to government for a capitalisation order to allow them to keep a balanced budget following overspends.”

As part of the budget, approved last night (February 22), a 1.99% Council Tax increase plus a 3% Adult Social Care Precept mean council tax will rise by a total of 4.99%, the maximum allowed without a local referendum.