COUNCIL tax payers in Warwick district are discovering the cost of tackling climate change.
Warwick District Council is hoping to create a ring-fenced fund of some £3million a year to fund a programme known as ‘Climate Action Now’ (CAN).
Residents will have a chance to vote for or against the 32 per cent hike in the authority’s share of the council tax bill – which amounts to around 11 per cent of the total – at a referendum on May 7.
It will mean an average Band D household has to fork out an extra £50 a year to the district council, on top of inflation-busting rises imposed by Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire Police.
Due to a legal quirk, council tax bills sent out on to district taxpayers, included the potential increase. If residents vote ‘no’, their bills will be reduced to make up the refund in March, April and May’s payments.
But if households agree the new fund would be used to focus on the likes of making homes and businesses more energy efficient, reducing transport emissions and planting thousands of trees.
In a national first and show of cross party unity, councillors recently unanimously agreed to put the programme to voters in the referendum. Legally authorities must hold a referendum if it proposes a major tax rise.
Ahead of the polls, councillors supporting the move, are running a campaign urging residents to vote yes.
Conservative council leader Andrew Day has confirmed the campaign is being funded from councillors’ own pockets – around
£8,500 – including employing an external PR company to help promote the campaign.
The referendum itself is being funded from the government’s ‘New Homes Bonus’ and will cost around £300,000. The money is usually used to fund community facilities as part of new housing developments.
The bonus will also fund a new senior officer role titled ‘programme director for climate change’ – paying up to £91,500 per year – regardless of whether residents vote yes in the referendum.
The council’s Liberal Democrat leader Coun Alan Boad said: “Because of the legality surrounding local budgets, the potential increase in council tax from the CAN programme will appear on March’s bill.
“If residents vote ‘Yes’ in May’s referendum, that increase will stay on future bills. But if residents vote no, the difference in cost will then be refunded and new bills will be sent out reflecting the reduction.
“We think a referendum on a council tax rise is the fairest way to fund the CAN programme – we could have opted to reduce other key services to fund it including sports and leisure or waste collection, but instead we’ve decided to go to the people to see what they think.
“It’s very important to stress that this is a ring-fenced, protected fund that will actively contribute to a whole host of green projects in our district.
“This includes improving the energy efficiency of homes, working to develop a sustainable transport strategy, creating more green spaces, and helping businesses reduce energy costs.
“In the long term, this council tax increase will pay for itself due to the savings on energy and fuel costs that residents will make.
“We would urge people to support this plan on May 7 by voting ‘yes’ in the referendum and take climate action now.
“Our residents have a chance to make history by voting for this – it is their opportunity to make a difference to help tackle the climate emergency locally.”