When news happens, text BONEWS and your photos to 80360 or phone 01204 537274
Fury over ‘insulting’ council tax increase
11:43am Thursday 28th February 2013 in News
OPPOSITION parties have accused Bury’s ruling Labour group of delivering an “insult” to local people by approving an inflation-busting council tax rise.
Bury Council had put forward a 3.5 per cent increase for the forthcoming financial year but this did not include rises in the police and fire service precepts which brings the overall increase in the council tax bill to 3.7 per cent.
At last Wednesday’s annual budget meeting, the Conservatives and Lib Dem groups argued that the council tax should be frozen and the Tories went one step further in its defeated amendment by calling for a £30 “cashback scheme” for the over-65s.
Cllr Tony Isherwood, executive member for finance and resources, said: “We have done our very best to protect frontline services but we are getting to the point when such savage cuts cannot be met from efficiencies.”
The rise will generate an extra £1.6 million which Labour say will go some way towards addressing the risks in the 2013/14 budget and help to offset part of the Government’s 2014/15 grant cuts. Council leader Mike Connolly added: “We take absolute no pleasure in proposing a council tax rise but without it we would be facing devastating cuts in 2014/15 which would affect the most vital services.”
The meeting also agreed council house rents will rise by an average of 4.1 per cent.
Councillors approved cuts of £9.871 million for 2013-14, of which £5.226 million will be achieved from internal efficiencies but overall the measures will hit certain services and also involve some job losses.
But Bury Council bowed to public pressure by deciding not to totally scrap its ranger service. A sum of £50,000 is being set aside to fund two of the existing eight posts to help retain a ranger presence and to further develop the volunteer service.
The public consultation will also see the authority make £150,000 available to retain the township cleansing teams at their current levels.
But the savings approved for 2013-14 include: l £250,000 reduction in funding for children’s centres l £20,000 by reviewing the range of equipment provided to disabled individuals in line with national guidelines l £100,000 by a review of all services and systems within Adult Care Services l £80,000 through a review of carers support programmes l £150,000 in savings from home to schools transport and promoting independent travel options l £104,000 through the loss of three social care posts.
Other plans embrace reduced highways maintenance and cutting pool opening hours at quiet times, reducing parking refunds, savings from the library service totalling £150,000, self management of outdoor sports facilities and allotments, no maintenance of football pitches and reduced grounds maintenance.
Additional car parking charges are also planned.
Cllr Iain Gartside, leader of Bury’s Conservative group, said: “If our budget amendment had been supported by Labour, then many frontline services would have been saved.
“The final insult came when they announced an increase in everyone’s council tax of 3.7 per cent, including police and fire precepts.”
Bury’s Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Tim Pickstone said the “inflation-busting” council tax rise was “an insult to local people” who were already struggling financially.
He added: “We would have found savings from management costs and by working cheaper and jointly with other councils to keep the tax rise at zero.”