SENIOR councillors have explained why they want to increase council tax by 4.9% as pressure on budgets increase.

Herefordshire Council wants to raise the council tax for the forthcoming tax year, which will be discussed at a cabinet meeting tomorrow before going to full council at the end of the month for the final decision.

They are proposing a 1.9% general increase and a three percent increase for the adult social care precept.

Following a government announcement in December, the maximum increase the council can ask for without triggering a referendum is 5.9%.

Tony Johnson, leader of the council, said there are 3,500 adults in the county who require care. He said: "It is roughly three percent of the total population. Those three percent take 52% of our total budget - £75m is what we currently spend per year on care."

The council collects £98m a year from council tax. Cllr Johnson said: "If we spend £75m a year just on care, 76% of everything we collect in council tax just goes on care.

"We are trying to get the reality out to people and understanding of where the money goes. The majority of people think it is spent on things you can see immediately like buses, roads, bins, libraries, museums, things like that. It is also looking after the poor souls who can't look after themselves."

The council's total budget is £350m a year but a large proportion of that covers statutory requirements, of which the council has no say on.

Once that is spent there is £140m to £145m a year where the council has some say on where money can be spent.

Central government grants to local authorities stop in 2020. Councils will then be allowed to keep 75% of business rates, but this is not enough to cover the shortfall.

Cllr Nigel Shaw, the cabinet member for finance, housing and corporate services, said the number of people needing care in Herefordshire is increasing and the ratio of over 65s in Herefordshire is 27% higher than it is for the national picture.

Cllr Johnson said the council therefore needs to invest in ways which will bring income in for the council to replace the money lost from government.

Cllr David Harlow, cabinet member for economy and corporate services, said the council will be investing in assets to support business growth in Hereford and the rest of the county.

He said: "By investing our money in business growth we will create jobs and attract more young people."

Cllr Shaw added: "The other situation is that Herefordshire has a lower than average income. That really ties in with our economic development. What we need to do is create jobs where people can earn more money."

Cllr Johnson said the average national salary is £27,000 but in Hereford it is £20,000.