doc

COUNCIL tax payers in Bolton will see their bills rise after councillors agreed to slash £21.7 million from the town hall budget during a lively meeting.

Millions of pounds of savings across departments were rubber stamped last night, as well as an increase in council tax of 1.94 per cent — meaning Bolton is the first Greater Manchester council as yet to raise council tax next year.

The move was opposed by Conservative and Liberal Democrat politicians, who both put forward alternative budgets which involved freezing council tax.

But Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris moved to increase the charge to bring in an extra £1.6 million and turn down a £1 million grant from the government to stop a rise.

He said: "The problem with the freeze grant is it is a short-term solution to a long-term crisis.

“Despite claiming they are committed to localism, this government continues to take decisions in their Westminster bubble that either don't understand — or worse ignore — the pressures which our businesses and families are under."

The council tax increase, including police and fire precepts, is the equivalent of an extra £18.27 a year for Bolton Band A properties, £18.50 in Blackrod, £18.28 in Horwich and £18.24 in Westhoughton.

The council approved spending £400,000 to increase wages for its lowest paid staff — up from £6.69 to £7.18 an hour — a move backed by the Conservatives and Lib-Dems.

Last year saw the council set a two-year budget, and no new cuts on top of the £21.7 million already earmarked.

The cuts will include the closure of three day centres for disabled adults, removal of school personal assistants, the dedicated graffiti team axed and a reduction in the level of grass cutting and complaints handling.

There are also plans to cut £798,000 by integrating back offices of the adult and children services department, affecting 23 jobs.

A reduction in money available for tripping claims is possible and £50,000 has been taken off the subsidy for free swimming lessons and leisure concessions.

Cllr David Greenhalgh, leader of the Conservatives, said while he felt the north was being targeted unfairly by the cuts from government, he said the national figures showed the country was recovering as a result of the tough choices being made.

He added: "Most residents in this borough will not be able to understand why, in a year when the council has a £1.6 million surplus that £600,000 could not be found from somewhere to add to the government grant of £1 million and give help to families and individuals.”