Tax rise set to get nod despite Tory objections
9:00am Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Local
BOLTON’S Conservative group will oppose plans to raise council tax at a crunch meeting tonight.
Councillors will gather at Bolton Town Hall at 7pm and will be asked to back this year’s budget as well as a 3.5 per cent tax increase.
If approved, the budget would also include cuts of £43.6 million over the next two years, leading to the loss of up to 536 posts and reductions in services ranging from grass cutting and children’s services to funding for events and leisure.
Councillors will be asked to approve a budget for 2013/14 of £481,593,000 and a provisional budget of £473,419,000 for the following year, as well as 3.5 per cent tax increase for the coming year.
But borough Tory chief David Greenhalgh said his group will oppose the rise, saying funds should be found through reducing councillors’ allowances and the money spent on top staff and union reps.
The Prime Minister had called on local authorities to freeze council tax and had offered Bolton a grant of £2 million over the next two years if it agreed to a freeze.
But Town Hall bosses claimed the cash was not enough to offset the prospect of more damaging cuts — including fresh library closures and the axing of area forums — and have decided to increase tax instead.
The council has frozen tax for three of the last four years and if backed tonight it would see residents in band A properties paying an extra 63p per week, or £32.94 per year.
It would raise an extra £1.7 million and the council would also use £8 million of its reserves over the next four years to prop up its finances.
Council leader Cliff Morris said: “It means that we’ve been as fair as we possibly can.
“We’re protecting the most vulnerable because we’re all in this together.”
Cllr Greenhalgh said the Conservative group could not justify putting up council tax, given the level of service that residents receive.
He said: “We have to give all the support we can to hard-working families and pensioners, and by freezing council tax and accepting the government’s £2 million grant, we will be doing this.”
He added that his group was producing a “fully costed, robust budget” to fund the plan.
Bolton Liberal Democrat leader Roger Hayes said his party was working on an amendment to the budget.
He was staying tight-lipped about the details, but said his party could vote against the budget proposals if the amendment is not adopted.
He added: “The council has got some very difficult decisions to make.”
Despite planned Conservative opposition, Labour’s superior numbers mean the budget and council tax rise are almost certain to be passed this evening.
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