Herefordshire’s ruling Conservatives have admitted the county’s budget shortfall would be even greater without council tax rises this and last year which it opposed when in opposition.

The maximum 5 per cent increase was approved under the previous Independents for Herefordshire / Green administration in February this year by just a two-vote margin, after Liberal Democrat and True Independent councillors sided with Conservatives to oppose it.

There was similar opposition to raising the tax by the then-maximum 3 per cent the year before.


Trish Marsh, who stepped down as Green ward councillor for Leominster South in May, yesterday (December 21) asked the leader of the Conservative administration Coun Jonathan Lester how much lower the council’s revenue would be if the rises had been blocked.

Coun Lester replied that the “cumulative difference” in council tax charged over the two years to the end of next March would have been £13 million.

The council is currently seeking ways to cut spending in the next (2024/25) financial year by £19.5 million. But there would be “an additional funding gap in 2024/25 of £16.1 million” without the rises, Coun Lester said.

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But he claimed the defeated Tory amendment to the 2022/23 budget “was fundable, the council choose to deploy the funds in a different way”, while the amendment they had sought for the current year was rather “to fund further investment in our rural roads”.

“We have inherited a medium-term financial strategy from the previous administration that has budget shortfalls in future years that we are working to close,” he added.

Ms Marsh responded that the minority Tory administration was “sensibly” proposing a rise of 5 per cent from next April, blaming this on, in Coun Lester’s words, “significant inflationary pressures”.


Yet the current inflation rate of 4.6 per cent is lower than in the two previous years, she pointed out, and asked: “Would the cabinet member prefer to be making service cuts of £36.5 million for next year?”

Coun Lester replied: “This administration is always keen to limit council tax increases where possible and deliver value for money.

“This is a draft budget, and we will listen to all members, and members of the public, as part of the consultation process.”