COUNCIL tax bills will rise again next year after plans to up the county council's share were backed.

Worcestershire County Council approved a two and half per cent increase at a meeting on Thursday, February 18.

The planned rise would see tax bills increase by around £33 more for the average band D household for the county council's services notwithstanding increases by district councils, West Mercia Police and Herefordshire and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service.

The county council also predicts a £75 million gap in its subsequent two budgets between 2022 and 2024.

The authority’s Lib Dem councillors had called for council tax to be increased further by half a per cent to provide more money for social care but that plea was rejected.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Liz Tucker had said an extra half per cent increase in council tax for adult social care was "easy to agree if it was looked at with an open mind" but was ultimately left disappointed.

Deputy leader Cllr Adrian Hardman said the council would delay looking at increasing the precept further until “more normal times" and called the Lib Dem’s proposed amendment “extremely impracticable.”

Independent councillor Charlie Hotham said he was concerned by the £75 million hole in the council’s budgets up to 2024 and was alarmed that no plan was in place to address it.

“I understand that it has been a very difficult year and the pressures that Covid has put on us, but as we look at this budget in front of us it really is devoid of hope,” he said. “We now find ourselves in a very dark place on the brink of collapse.”

Cllr Hotham’s dissatisfaction was not shared by the council’s Conservative administration with cabinet member for education Cllr Marcus Hart saying “just because you can raise council tax to the maximum, doesn’t mean you have to.”

“This is a budget of ambition and growth,” he said.

Cllr Hart added he could not see the same 'black hole' that Cllr Hotham was warning about.

Labour group leader Cllr Robin Lunn had called for the government to fund the council tax increase in Worcestershire but that was also rejected by councillors.

Cllr Lunn said the £75 million hole was a "frightening figure" and he did not share council leader Simon Geraghty's "relaxed view" about the gap.

He said if Labour had put forward the same budget it would be accused of being "financially illiterate and complacent."