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Sunday, 05 July 2015

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Cumbrian authority opts to freeze council tax

CUMBRIA County Council has voted to accept a government grant to freeze council tax.

By Gareth Jones

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

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

This will mean 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.

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

Councillor Eddie Martin, leader of the council, said he did not want to impose a tax hike.

He 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.

“I would also highlight that this budget includes a significant capital investment programme, with over £90m to be spent on facilities and infrastructure in the county. This is a huge investment and I’m extremely pleased we are able to put this money into the local economy.”

Councillor Stewart Young, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for resources, said:

“These are exceptionally difficult times for councils up and down the country. For Cumbria the scale of the reduction to our funding is simply huge. Whilst any move to help hard pressed council tax payers through freezing council tax is to be welcomed, let us be clear that this is ultimately being paid for by reductions in services.

“The future holds a great deal of uncertainty, but what is certain is that more savings will need to be made, there will be changes in how services are delivered, and difficult decisions will need to be made.”

Council staff will receive a one per cent pay rise and £91.96m has been allocated to fund on-going and new capital projects, such as investment in roads and highways improvements, funding improvements for school buildings and broadband roll-out.

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