A council tax hike of nearly 5 per cent will come into effect in Kingston after the borough’s budget was passed during a full council meeting yesterday evening (February 26).

Minus absentees, the large Liberal Democrat majority on the council all voted in favour of passing the budget (34), which includes a 2.99 per cent rise in the council tax rate as well as an optional 2 per cent social care precept.

One councillor, Sharron Sumner (Greens) voted against, while the Conservative opposition councillors (9) all abstained.

Council tax for general spending requires a referendum if it rises by three per cent.

Councillors from the Lib Dems backing the budget defended the rising costs ahead of yesterday’s council meeting and explained their reasoning yesterday evening.

Kingston's Council Leader, Councillor Liz Green, defended the “tough but fair” decisions outlined in the proposals.

Cllr Green said: "We have had to take tough but fair decisions — protecting the most vulnerable in our society.

"Because of the mess we were left, and further cuts in funding from the Tory government, this budget involves making tough decisions including raising council tax. We expect the majority of London boroughs to follow suit.”

The single councillor to vote against the budget, Councillor Sharron Sumner, recently defected from the Liberal Democrats and joined the Green Party.

During last night’s budget debate, she outlined the reasons for her opposition.

Cllr Sumner said: “The lack of priority this administration is giving to air quality, sustainability and ecology. Why is that? It’s because the budget is written by the officers, for the officers.

“It’s a budget that raises council tax by five per cent, the maximum allowed, but doesn’t use it to save frontline services — it sticks it in the Guildhall piggy bank, no doubt to pay for the next set of pet projects handed down by the officers up high. It’s a budget for fat cat bureaucrats.”

Cllr Sumner highlighted the increased funds allocated for the executives and proposed cuts to children’s centre funding that is due to see four children’s centres in the borough closed.

While the Conservative councillors abstained on the budget vote itself, some including Cllr David Cunningham, criticised the approach to children’s centre funds.

Cllr Cunnningham said the budget was: “Pitting one children’s centre against the other by saying ‘four’ out of eight children’s centres will close.”