AN INCREASE in council tax for Chiltern residents was rubber stamped last night despite it being branded "sly and immoral" by a member.

Residents face a 1.9 per cent increase in the amount of tax they pay Chiltern District Council after authority members officially approved the plans.

The council's cabinet recommended the increase after saying extra cash would be needed for future financial years - but there was outspoken opposition to the proposals from several members.

Cllr David Meacock, the only member of the ruling Conservative party to oppose the tax hike, said: "This proposed council tax rise is sly and immoral.

"This council has many residents who are struggling and are on the brink. These pence here, there and everywhere add up to pounds people simply cannot afford."

Lib Dem group leader Cllr Peter Jones questioned why an increase had been proposed when the council had made savings by agreeing joint deals with neighbouring authorities.

He and Cllr Seb Berry both said the additional revenue raised from the increase would go into the authority's reserves instead of frontline services.

When the increase was proposed at a previous cabinet meeting, members said they had a "gun to their heads" in a bid to make savings.

But at last night's meeting Cllr Berry said: "The government gun to our heads is of course the same one that has already enabled over 200 councils to freeze or even cut their council tax.  

"As of last night that long list of council tax freeze authorities includes our partner authority South Bucks. Wycombe’s Cabinet has also recommended a freeze. If they can do it, so can we."

He added: "What we’re being asked to sign up to tonight is a council tax increase, not to fund frontline or even back office services. We’re being asked to back a council tax increase which will increase the amount of money that is already going into reserves next year. 

"Not a penny of the extra income will be spent on services in 2013/14 - not a single penny. 

"Conservative councillors in other parts of the country have been quick to attack Labour councils for 2013 'tax and spend' budgets. We’re being asked to support not 'tax and spend', but 'tax and put in reserves'."

A total of 19 members voted in favour of the increase, six opposed it and four councillors - John Wertheim, Alan Bacon, John Gladwin and Tony Williams - abstained from voting.

The 1.9 per cent increase is equivalent to an additional £3.03 for an average Band D property.

Council Leader Cllr Nick Rose said after the meeting: "This year’s budget has been set against the backdrop of the harsh economic climate facing us all. The need to reduce costs is unavoidable, but the scale of what is likely to be required will go beyond what good cost control, which we have always exercised, can achieve.

"The council is not taking a short term view of just the year ahead; it is taking a longer term view so it can maintain the services our residents value at an affordable cost, during the period of continuing reduction in public expenditure over at least the next four years."