COUNCIL tax bills in Croydon are set to rise for the first time since 2010. Croydon Council plans to raise council tax this year by 1.85 per cent, although bills could increase by only 1.2 per cent if a cut to the London mayor's share is approved. Band D taxpayers will be paying an extra £17.56 per year, or 34p per week, if the mayor's share is cut, or £21.28 if it is not. Council leader Mike Fisher said the hike would raise roughly £1.3 million per year for the council, and was necessary to 'protect frontline services'. Central government funding to local authorities has dropped steeply and the council is looking to save £36 million over the next two years. Cllr Fisher said: "I think to protect investment in schools, in school improvement, in a whole range of council services, that is an increase which most local taxpayers would be prepared to fund. "We have obviously looked very closely at every area of the budget. It is a balancing act between making sure council tax is affordable for the public, taking into account various offers on the table from the government, and also protecting our frontline services." The council's 2013/14 budget will also see £11.1m of cuts and efficiencies to the adult services department - the worst hit - followed by children, families and learning with £10.93m. Its planned investment over the next four years includes £92 million in primary schools, £26 million to refurbish Fairfield Halls, and £24 million on special educational needs. Leader of the opposition Tony Newman branded the tax hike a 'betrayal', but acknowledged the council had been clobbered by Government cuts. "We would reduce the budget for consultants, we would review the position of chief executive," he added. "We would also review the salaries of the entire senior management team in terms of value for money. "We have repeatedly opposed the spending of the money on the [new] council headquarters. So we would not have done that [raise taxes]; we would not be coming from this position." Croydon councillors will meet on February 26 to approve the budget and council tax for 2013/14. The London mayor's share of the tax will be decided the day before at a London Assembly meeting. Some Assembly members want to freeze the mayoral share rather than reduce it, so there is more money for fire and police services. The previous Croydon council tax rise, in 2010, was of 0.8 per cent.
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