Lowest ever council tax rise proposed

The ConservativesThe Conservative administration on South Gloucestershire Council has announced plans for the district’s lowest ever council tax rise, despite being one of the lowest funded councils of its kind in the country.

At 2.5 per cent for 2010/11, it would be the lowest council tax rise in the Council’s history and is in stark contrast to the huge rises seen under previous council administrations – including the infamous Liberal Democrat 12.4 per cent council tax rise in 2002.

A 2.5 per cent increase is also down on the 2.9 per cent for 2010/11 that was proposed in September 2009 as part of a budget consultation exercise.

The reason that the rise has been lowered is because the authority is on course to collect over £800k more council tax than it thought it would.

This extra revenue is being shared between further lowering the council tax rise and contributing towards a £650K funding boost for safeguarding vulnerable children, including ‘looked after children’ in the care of the authority.

Since the Conservatives began running the Council as a minority administration in May 2007, council tax rises have been falling steadily from 4.5 per cent in 2008/09, 3.9 per cent in 2009/10, a proposed 2.5 per cent rise in 2010/11 with future plans to bring them down to just 2 per cent in line with the national inflation target.

The cuts in council tax rises come despite South Gloucestershire Council being one of the lowest funded unitary authorities in the country.

As a result, one of the outcomes of this year’s budget consultation has seen the number of residents that think that the Council offers good value for money leap from 49 per cent a year ago to 59 per cent today – a 10 point improvement.

2010 also sees the introduction of a flagship youth concessionary travel scheme, as well as maintaining the extra £2m to improve the condition of local roads and footpaths

Cllr John Calway, Leader of the Council’s Conservative administration, said:

“The Government’s questionable funding formula means that we are one of the lowest funded councils of our kind in the country and yet pressures continue to mount.

Not only are Ministers continuing to thrust unfunded burdens, inspection and red tape upon the council, but they refuse to tell us where the public spending axe will fall in order to pay off the crippling national debt that they are wracking up.

We cannot pretend that these tough decisions are not on the way as a result of the dire state of the national finances.

This is why the council needs to step up its efficiency drive so we can release resources that prepare us for the leaner times ahead and at the same time strike the right balance between improving frontline services and keeping council tax rises well below the eye-watering double digit increases seen under previous council administrations.

Sharing the pain of the deepest and longest recession in our post-war history means that the council must do all it can to tighten its belt, just like most households and local businesses are.”

He added:

“Many more residents than last year tell us that we are providing better value for money and we are committed to meeting their rising expectations, especially during these tough economic times.

Our proposals for the district’s lowest ever council tax rise this year coupled with more investment in essential frontline services, such as caring for vulnerable children, is evidence of this commitment.

2010 will also see the introduction of our flagship youth concessionary travel scheme, as well as maintaining the extra £2m to improve the condition of local roads and footpaths.”

The Conservatives’ budget plans will be agreed at a Cabinet meeting on 1st February and then confirmed at a meeting of the Full Council at 17th February.

Source: Conservative Group on South Gloucestershire Council