RAISING council tax by less than four per cent would be irresponsible, claims the man in charge of the borough's finances.

But Russell Holland, who is also the deputy council leader, did not seize on the opportunity to increase the tax on householders next year by the new government limit of five per cent.

And the Conservative councillor seemed to agree with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer about where the burden of paying for local services should fall.

Just before Christmas secretary for housing communities and local government Robert Jenrick said local authorities would be allowed to increase their share of council tax by five per cent – two per cent for general spending and three per cent specially ringfenced for adult social care. The latter makes up most of Swindon council’s spending and is an ever-growing need.

That’s an allowed increase of 1.1 per cent on the previous maximum of 3.99 per cent.

Sir Keir said the increase would put the burden of funding services on families struggling after lockdown and called on the government to provide more support for councils.

Speaking at the council’s scrutiny meeting Coun Holland said: “Anything less than a four per cent increases would be irresponsible. I don’t know if we would go above that.”

Even with that increase the cabinet member for finance said, with a £1m gap in spending for this year’s budget, savings would be needed and “there will have to be changes in services as in previous years.”

He told the committee members: “Nobody wants to pay more taxes, but most people do want good services, especially for the most vulnerable people in our community.

“We need a more sophisticated level of debate on how we do that.”

He said he was in favour of funding more council services through national taxation and grants from government. The trend over the last 10 years has been for central grants to be much smaller, with increases in council tax used to fill the gap.

Coun Holland said: “I would prefer that was funded through national taxation because that’s based on ability to pay rather than property, and I’d be willing to pay more, though I acknowledge I’m in a position to be able to do that and not everybody is.”

A four per cent increase would see an increase of £51 on the borough council’s precept of £1,296 for Band D payers. A five per cent increase would raise the bill by £64.

The council’s precept is about 70 to 75 per cent of the total annual bill, with police, fire service and parish councils adding theirs.

A full draft budget proposal will be presented to the Conservative cabinet on February 3. The scrutiny committee will consider it on February 8.

Full council will be asked to approve the budget on February 18, with another meeting scheduled for February 22 if agreement cannot be found at the first.