PEOPLE living in the average Band D home across Wiltshire will pay an extra £96.26 a year for their Wiltshire Council services in 2021/22.

That includes the increases for their share of cost of running the police and fire authorities and any increase in their town or parish council tax.

The authority approved a 4.99 per cent rise in its annual budget and a £75.60 rise in council tax. That means means the bill for an average Band D property will rise to £1,590.60 a year from £1,515 for 2020/21.

The total council tax to be paid by an average Band D household will rise to £2,031.06 compared to £1,934.80 last year, a rise of £96.26 or 4.98 per cent.

Those figures represent an average across all those the council has received, the council said.

Around eight parishes do not raise a precept but all that do have returned their information to Wiltshire Council so they are included in the average figure.

The proposals agreed include a 1.99 per cent increase in basic council tax and a three per cent council tax levy specifically for adult social care, to cover £8.6m of extra spending because of the increasing age and needs of the residents of Wiltshire

Council leader Philip Whitehead described the annual budget for 2021/22 as ‘the most apolitical budget’ in the authority’s history.

He said the ‘prudent and cautious’ budget reflected the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic and economic difficulties that may lie ahead, adding: “There are many areas of uncertainty that we have planned for through this budget. It means that we are entirely secure and stable going into this uncertain future.

“We are under no illusion that the year ahead will be plain sailing but as we look ahead we must also recognise that the year ahead has potential to be exciting for Wiltshire and its residents as we move out of Covid.

“This budget may well be the first and last of its kind for its peculiar nature of a unique year but it will offer us resilience beyond all expectations going forward.”

But Liberal Democrat leader Ian Thorn labelled the budget as “unambitious” and said it showed the Tory-controlled council was out of touch with Wiltshire’s residents.

His group had set out three amendments that would support those in need during the pandemic recovery period, including handing back a council tax reduction to residents and support for struggling businesses.

He said: “Our alternatives will save Wiltshire Council taxpayers £2.8 million, provide a greater safety net for those struggling to pay their council tax, and will seek to do the same for struggling businesses.”

All three amendments were rejected by the Tory-controlled council, which voted them down and then approved the overall annual budget and council tax rise.

The budget was signed off by the full council meeting on Tuesday and the budget for 2020/21 was confirmed as balanced, despite the unprecedented challenges of the past year.

The council said it would overcome the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic – including setting aside a £4 million fund of £1m a year over the next four years - to support the market towns recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

Cllr Pauline Church, cabinet member for finance, procurement and commercial investment, said: “We are very pleased the budget has been agreed and our focus now is to ensure we give the county and its residents the best opportunities to recover from the pandemic."

“Although it’s been an uncertain financial time to say the least, our strong financial management, prudent planning and transparent way of working means we are still in a position to invest significantly in key services and programmes.

“The effect of the pandemic will undoubtedly be felt for some time to come, but we’ll continue to work hard and think innovatively and focus our resources in the right areas to ensure Wiltshire continues to be a great place to live, work and visit.”

The council estimates the impact felt from Covid-19 in the 2021/22 budgets for services will be around £5m, which takes into account the loss of income from services such as leisure and car parking but does not include the loss of council tax.

The proposals agreed also include:

• a £6.6m allocation for investment in Children’s Social Care and a further £1.5m to respond to rising demand for special educational needs service

• an increase of investment in waste services by £2.6m to a total of £42.3m

• a six-fold increase in the discretionary hardship fund to £300,000, held to assist those families and residents that, after undertaking all avenues of support to reduce their council tax bill, need further support from the council

• an investment of nearly £2m to help fund the planned £214m investment in the council’s capital programme.

This will include investing over £22m in maintaining Wiltshire’s road network; investing over £23m in schools, including the replacement of the lower block at Stonehenge School and ; continued investment of over £20m in the council’s Health & Wellbeing centre sites, including significant investment in Melksham Community Campus.

It will also include continued investment into carbon reduction initiatives, with £3m for the final transition to LED streetlights; and more than £4m for energy efficiency projects for its buildings and estate and an investment of over £50m in housing for Wiltshire, with around 1,000 new council houses provided over the next 10 years.