It would be ‘folly’ not to raise council tax by the maximum amount, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council has said, as the council approved spending plans for next year.

Councillors voted to increase council tax by the maximum amount allowed – 4.99 per cent – in a budget that also includes some £16 million worth of spending cuts.

It means the average mid-valued ‘Band D’ home in the borough will pay £2,262.93 a year from April. That’s £105 more than currently. Averages for each band in Wokingham are in the table below.

Bracknell News: Average council tax rates for Wokingham Borough in 2023-24 and 2024-25

Liberal Democrat leader Stephen Conway said he would ‘rather not’ increase council tax by that amount. But he said not doing so would mean running down the council’s reserves – pots of money saved to cover extra spending. He pointed to Windsor and Maidenhead council, which now faces effective bankruptcy.

Councillor Conway said: “We would rather not have to increase the council tax by 4.99%, but experience shows us the folly of too heavy a reliance on reserves to cover current expenditure.

“Neighbouring Windsor and Maidenhead levied a nil percent council tax for several years, paying for services by running down reserves.”

Councillor Conway was speaking as councillors debated and voted on the coming year’s budget, spanning April 2024 – April 2025, at a meeting on Thursday, February 24.

He also said that Wokingham Borough Council receives the lowest level of government grant funding of all the councils in Berkshire.

But Conservative opposition leader Pauline Jorgensen said the Liberal Democrats had ‘lost control’ of the council’s finances.

She said the council’s ‘core spending power’ had increased by nearly £24 million since the Liberal Democrats took control in 2022.

This is the amount it has in total to spend on services, and includes the amount of income it can raise such as through council tax as well as grants.

Councillor Jorgensen said: “The Liberal Democrats can’t live within their means. They have lost control of the Council’s finances.”

Councillor Andy Croy, leader of the Labour group, blamed Conservative-led governments for cutting funding for local councils. He said there had been ‘Year after year of cuts to funding and impairment to our revenue raising ability'.

Conservative councillors voted against the council’s spending plans, but it was approved with Liberal Democrat and Labour voting in favour.

In a separate vote, Liberal Democrats and Labour councillors also voted for the maximum council tax increase while Conservatives abstained, meaning this was also approved.