Councillors for Epsom and Ewell approved a 2.5 per cent increase in Council Tax across the borough on Thursday (February 13).

At a full meeting of Epsom and Ewell Borough Council (EEBC) last night, councillors agreed the council tax hike among a number of other details as they highlighted the squeeze from central government on council funds.

A spokesperson for EEBC pointed out what the 2.5 per cent increase meant in real terms — comparing it to the 3.99 per cent increase issued by Surrey County Council recently.

They described the budget as one "to protect frontline services".

"The increase is equivalent to a rise of £4.95 a year for ‘band D’ properties or just 9.5 pence per week," the spokesperson said.

"The borough portion of the council tax is the smallest element of the council tax, which for 2020/21 includes an increase from Surrey County Council (3.99 per cent) and an increase from Surrey Police (3.84 per cent).

"The council tax for 2020/21 for a band D property within Epsom and Ewell will rise to £1,985.34, with the borough council receiving £203.31," they said.

The Council's Eber Kington, chair of the Strategy and Resources committee, emphasized the positives amid a budgetary squeeze:

"Epsom and Ewell’s Council Tax will remain well below the average in Surrey," he said.

“At the meeting on Thursday, the council received an independent audit which stressed the sound financial management of the borough council.

“76 per cent of residents’ council tax goes to the county council, 14 per cent to Surrey Police but just 10 per cent of council tax is allocated to fund all the services provided by this council.

“We have agreed a budget which, despite ongoing financial pressure, sees no withdrawal of the frontline services on which residents depend and that allows us to continue to invest in in one of the best places to live and work in the country," Cllr Kington added.

Under a funding squeeze from central government, the new EEBC budget includes cuts or "efficiency savings" worth £463,000 next year.

Despite this there would be no cuts to frontline services provided by the council, EEBC insisted.

In remarks given to the mayor during the full council meeting on Thursday, Cllr Kington expanded on his criticism of central government's funding for councils, saying it "does not work effectively" for EEBC.

He meanwhile pointed out some further details contained in the budget, including the ongoing rejuvenation of Epsom town centre.

"Our investment in the market area comes at a time when an independent audit and health check of the borough’s shopping centres provides a positive report on how well they are doing," Cllr Kington said.

"Commenting of Epsom town centre, for example, the Report highlights the retention of key anchor retailers (M&S/Boots/Next/TK Maxx +); a healthy mix of higher end leisure services with good quality restaurants, cinema, theatre and lower than the national average number of vacant units.

"That is good news for the local economy, and the current redevelopment of the market area will continue to make Epsom town centre a great place to shop, eat and do business."