Tory-led Cheshire West and Chester Council executive last night (Wednesday) unanimously approved plans for a two year council tax freeze in West Cheshire.
The proposed bonus for 140,000 council tax payers for 2014-16 will now go before full budget council on Monday, March 3. If confirmed, CWaC’s standard Band D council tax rate for 2014-15 will remain unchanged at £1,275.23.
And over the last four years, council taxpayers in the borough will have paid an average 1.65% rise in council tax against a 12.1% rise in inflation – a saving of £131 on a Band D tax bill.
Members were asked to approve a recommend a freeze on council tax for 2014-15 and suggest the same for the following year.
Cllr Les Ford, executive member, Resources, told colleagues the authority’s medium term financial plan had been based on the continued reduction of funds from a central government seeking to balance the nation’s current account.
Cllr Ford said: “The budget continues the same themes as previous years by continuing to reduce waste, inefficient practices and bureaucracy and yet seeks to innovate and develop new ways of delivering and improving services to our residents at a much reduced cost.
“We have continued, as we have always done in this borough to produce a sound way forward and be well ahead of the curve in terms of efficiency, effectiveness and savings.”
And he added: “This is working very successfully enabling the council to make significant investments into sports and cultural facilities in Northwich, Ellesmere Port and Chester; substantial investments into schools, where a detailed plan is being supported by government and in our roads and pavements, as requested by many residents on the doorstep.”
Opposition Resources spokesman Cllr Ben Powell found the authority’s proposed cuts ‘remarkably unimaginative’.
“The council is going to retain what by any standards is a very bloated management structure with one of the highest numbers of senior staff of any council in the country whilst most of the restructuring has been at the bottom.”
Cllr Powell was ‘uncomfortable’ with a lot of proposals made and highlighted cuts to CCTV – “I’d be interested to know what our partners the police think” – and home to school transport changes – “a very modest saving that would have a life changing and severe impact on some people in this borough.”
Speaking afterwards, Labour opposition leader Cllr Justin Madders said the plan included a 2% council tax rise in 2016-17 “after the elections”. “They forgot to mention that, which is very cynical in my view,” he commented.
Appendix D in the budget papers states that a further grant is available for councils who freeze their council tax again in 2015-16 but adds: “No additional funding beyond that point has been confirmed so a council tax rise in line with target inflation (2%) is included in the 2016-17 budget.”
However, council spokesman Ian Callister said council tax could “not be set three years in advance” and a different administration could be in place by then which may take a different approach.