Hounslow Council has become the latest borough to announce it is looking to increase council tax by nearly 5% to meet the continued financial challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

A budget proposal published on 1 February has outlined how frontline services will continue to be provided in line with the authority’s Recovery Plan: One Hounslow Forward Together.

It comes amid warnings from the council that without a “major programme of investment,” the economic impacts of the pandemic could be “catastrophic.”

The budget proposes a 4.99% hike, equivalent to £5.30 a month for a Band D property, with 3% ring-fenced for adult social care.

The overall increase is the maximum permitted without holding a local referendum to obtain public approval.

In a statement, Cllr Shantanu Rajawat, cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said: “It is still impossible to be certain about the costs of COVID-19.

“Over the past year we worked hard and managed to protect key frontline services despite huge pressures on our budgets due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As we look to the borough’s recovery, we need to maximise the Hounslow pound, invest in re-skilling and supporting residents back into work and to invest in support for young people through apprenticeships and other work. 

“Volatility in regards to Business Rates means we cannot be sure when, if ever, we will see a return to normal. We cannot know how businesses will be affected in months to come. We know that without our support, many will find meeting their challenges much harder.

“In order to continue to protect services and our most vulnerable residents while also achieving our wider ambitions, we have had to make the difficult decision to increase Council Tax this year.”

Hounslow follows the likes of nearby boroughs Ealing and Kingston, who both came in for criticism for employing the maximum possible rise.

Hounslow Council has also revealed that it has been able to cover the increases in spending required to meet the growing demands of COVID-19.

As well as providing funding for 2,810 businesses, it has also offered discounts on Council Tax to 8,893 households. 

Commenting on the pressures faced by the local authority as it aims to keep up with demand for its services, Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran, said: “COVID-19 will not go as quickly as it came. 

“Its impacts will be felt into the medium term. On top of that the financial impacts of Brexit remain unknown.

“This budget puts us on a sound footing to deliver on our ambitions to recover from the impact of COVID-19 as a fairer, greener and stronger borough.”

The budget proposal will now head to the Borough Council on 2 March for approval.