Last night, (Wednesday 20 February), the Labour Party-controlled Bury Council set its budget for 2013/14.
In a cynical politically motivated move, the Labour Party steamrollered through an increase in Council Tax of 3.5% and increase in Council House Rents of 4.1% for the forthcoming twelve months. Adding in the Police and Fire Authority increases, Council Tax will therefore increase by 3.7%.
The Labour-controlled Council rejected an offer of £650,000 from the Conservative-led Government to freeze Council Tax and decided that they would put the burden on the hard working council tax payers of Bury and Ramsbottom instead.
The Council Tax increase will generate an extra £1.6 million for the Council to spend. Yet, despite pressure on front line services, the Labour Party confirmed that they would put £1.4 million in the Council’s Reserves and still cut council services.
The Labour Group confirmed that they will now :-
– Cut the highway repair and maintenance budget yet again;
– Slash the Park Ranger service by two-thirds;
– Scrap free bus travel for children attending faith schools;
– Reduce funding for Children’s Centres;
– Reduce Library services;
– Reduce services at Swimming Pools and Leisure Centres;
– Reduce grants to the voluntary sector and charities
In my view, if you need to raise Council Tax, you need to be straight with residents. This cynical move by the Labour Party means that they are treating the residents of Bury and Ramsbottom with contempt.
If the Labour Party controlled Council had frozen Council Tax, the Conservative–led Government would have paid a grant of £650,000. Instead, the Labour Party are asking all hard working families in Ramsbottom to pay an extra 3.5% in their Council Tax, so they can put the money in the Bank, not stop the cuts to Council Services!
Opposition Councillors (including myself) stood up for local residents and proposed to freeze Council Tax and put forward proposals to reverse most of the planned cuts, including:-
– putting an extra £2 million into repairing our roads and pavements;
– Retaining the Park Ranger Service in full;
– Retaining free bus passes for children attending faith schools;
– Discounts for over 65s on their Council Tax;
– Reinstating free car parking on Sundays and the first half hour free at all other times to help our local businesses;
– Employ an additional Dog Fouling Enforcement Officer;
– £164,000 for voluntary groups and charities to spend in the Borough.
These proposals were rejected out of hand by the ruling Labour Group in a politically motivated move.
The proposals were fully funded by:-
– A one-off contribution from Council Reserves for road repairs on the basis that to invest money now on our pot-hole ridden roads will save money in the long run;
– Reduce Councillors Allowances;
– Reduce senior Council Officer salaries (those earning over £50,000) by 10%;
– Reduce funding for Trade Union paid posts at the Council;
– Savings from agency staff budget;
– Reductions in free car parking and car user allowances for Council Staff;
– Reductions in postage and courier services;
– Use of Public Health funding for the Ranger Service