Councillors are proposing a rise in Reigate and Banstead Borough Council's share of the Council Tax bill for the first time in four years.

The borough council has published its draft budget for the coming financial year after it was agreed for consultation by councillors last Thursday (November 8).

In it, the council has put forward a proposed 2% increase in its share of the bill, and turned down an offer of a Council Tax freeze grant from the Government.

The draft budget also includes a cut in staff numbers at the council by 20 full-time equivalent posts - 17 of which are currently vacant, or will be, by next April.

Deputy leader Victor Broad said they were mindful that families were finding things hard in the current economic straits, but that accepting the Government's offer would have meant the council having to find £1.5 million more in savings up to 2018.

The Government offer would have been equivalent to a 1% increase.

But Coun Broad said: “This time we are proposing not to accept the offer because it means we would need to find an additional £1.5 million in savings over the next five years to meet the budget gap it would create.”

He continued: "Instead we are proposing a 2% increase in Council Tax - equivalent to 7p a week for the average household.” He said: “We know that it is difficult for residents in the current economic climate and so we have sought to keep the rise as low as we can."

Council leader Joan Spiers said they have already managed to make savings of more than £1.3 million in the council's annual budget.

Coun Spiers said: “We are a well-run council constantly seeking to provide better for less. “We are striving to manage our finances so that we remain a sustainable council and can continue to protect services.

"We have worked hard to make substantial savings of over £1.3 million in our annual budget without compromising the services that we provide.”

She added: "We are putting in more effort to support people into trying to get work and to help the local economy to grow through new business. “We are also putting more effort into helping older people remain independent and enjoy a good quality of life for as long as possible."

The draft budget proposes growth of £222,000, mainly for improving processes and making service improvements.

Coun Spiers said: "We will need to find a further £2.7 million in savings over the next four years. “We have already identified some significant efficiencies around accommodation and changes to processes.”

She stressed: “ We will continue to make the capital investment needed to make these savings while striving to protect services."

Reigate and Banstead provides its services for 13% of the annual Council Tax bill - the rest of the money collected going to Surrey County Council (74%) and Surrey Police (13%).