Anger at plans to freeze council tax


Staff reporter (Chester First)

OPPOSITION leaders have hit out at proposals for a two-year freeze on council tax.

In a Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) report, put forward by Cllr Les Ford, the executive member for resources, and Julie Gill, director of resources, it is recommended that council tax remains at the same level for the next two years.

The proposals will now be discussed at the executive meeting next Wednesday.

Members will be recommended to back the plans to freeze council tax for the 140,000-plus council tax payers for 2014-15 and 2015-16.

But Labour’s Justin Madders, leader of the opposition, said there was not enough information available to make a decision for the next two financial years and accused the council of trying to make “headlines”.

Cllr Madders said: “It creates a nice headline but it ignores the implications it has on people.

“When you look at some of the things they are looking to do in the budget consultation like closing children’s centres, closing libraries, reducing gritting, reducing CCTV monitoring, getting rid of community support wardens and saying to parents it is going to cost £1200 to send their children to school, can they afford to do this?

“These are the kind of things we are concerned about rather than trying to freeze council tax at any cost.

“We will be looking at the full details of the budget over the next few weeks and come to our own conclusions. It is pretty premature to say it will be frozen for next year. To plan that far in advance is a bit of a risk.”

CWaC has already said estimated savings of £49m – 20 per cent of the Council’s current net budget – will be required over the next three years due to funding cuts from central Government.

But in the report Cllr Ford said despite this the council didn’t want to increase financial pressure on residents.

The report reads: “Despite these pressures, the council is conscious of the need to ensure increases in council tax do not increase financial pressures on local residents. As a result the proposed budget freezes council tax for 2014-15 and suggests we do the same the following year.”

Consequently, CWaC’s standard Band D council tax rate for 2014-15 will remain unchanged at £1,275.23.

In 2014-15, savings totalling £24.5m will be needed to balance the books because of a £10.5m reduction in Government grant; inflation and costs totalling £8.5m and increased service costs of £5.2m.

Despite severe financial pressures, an extra £2.5million has been found to fund a rise in children in care and an additional £3million will go towards helping to fund the cost of Cheshire’s ageing population.

See full story in the Chester Leader

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