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Friday, 25 July 2014

Cumbria council tax freeze agreed

CUMBRIA County Council has voted to accept a government grant that will mean a freeze in council tax bills.

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COUNCILLOR RAY GUSELLI

At a full council meeting in Kendal, members opted not to increase the tax but to instead accept the grant.

This will mean the county will receive a grant equivalent to a one per cent rise without taxpayers being hit further.

The county council’s share of the tax will range from £774.33 per year for Band A properties to £2,323 for Band H properties.

It is the third consecutive year that the county council’s share of council tax has not increased. Last year the council received a grant of £5.1m for freezing its precept.

However the council has still had to find £24m in savings, with efficiency savings being made and cuts to the amounts local committees receive.

Councillor Eddie Martin, leader of the council, said: “I considered it to be simply unacceptable for the council to impose a two per cent council tax increase on households at a time when so many are already under real financial pressure. Accepting the government’s grant is the right decision.

“What makes me most proud however is that we have again managed to protect children’s centres, libraries and other core services – I know that our other decisions will not be pain-free, but these services are, for me, fundamental to the council’s mission.”

The council’s budget will see the way that local committees are financed change and chairman of Barrow local committee, Councillor Ray Guselli, said the fact that the allocations will be based on population would hurt deprived areas.

He said: “What is needed is for us all here to recognise that some areas have special needs; in the case of Barrow, some very special needs.

“I think it is time to look at how all the budgets are allocated to local committees, with a particular emphasis on need playing a much bigger part than previously.

“That will take some ingenuity but some needs in Barrow are so different from, say, the needs in Eden or the South Lakes. Budgets should reflect those differences. Today, they do not.”

The county council agreed to refer the issue to its scrutiny task and finish group, and Cllr Guselli said he hoped this would lead to finances being directed to areas of need.

Other authorities across Cumbria have either voted or recommended freezes or rises in their council tax precepts.

On Thursday, South Lakeland District Council announced it hopes to freeze its portion from April while Copeland Borough Council’s executive committee has agreed to recommend a 1.9 per cent increase.

Barrow Borough Council is set to increase its council tax share by 1.9 per cent and Cumbria police is to increase its share by 1.95 per cent.

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