A COUNCIL tax freeze has been approved by Wigan Council.
The decision to keep bills unchanged as part of the proposed budget - which will take effect from April 1 - was approved at a full council meeting last night, Wednesday.
The council has also agreed to absorb the proposed rise in the police precept, however the proposed £14 million in cuts will go ahead.
Savings planned over the next year include cutting £300,000 by centralising services and staff in Wigan Town Hall, as well as continuing with its programme to cut staff sickness and move more services online.
Council leader Lord Peter Smith said: “I’m pleased we have been able to freeze council tax as I know many families throughout the borough are struggling with the cost of living. Hopefully, this will ease the financial pressures they face.
“The public will have seen in the media the steps some authorities are taking to balance their budgets. Thankfully, we can take a different approach because we have managed our money well and responded quickly to central government cuts.
“We will protect frontline jobs and services but we can only do this by finding creative solutions to the challenges we face and by encouraging the public to play their part.”
The decision to freeze council tax is part of the ‘Wigan Deal’, with the council committing to a number of pledges, including helping communities to support each other through schemes such as the Community Investment Fund.
Another pledge is to cut red tape and the council plans to reduce its administrative buildings from 20 to four – saving £1m a year.
In turn it wants residents to also take an active role in helping minimise the impact of spending cuts, by:
- Recycling more (a five per cent reduction in non-recyclable waste would save the council £322,000 every year)
- Getting involved in the community
- Supporting local businesses
- Being healthy and active
- Helping support children and the vulnerable
- Getting online
It also hopes community groups will run some of the services it can no longer afford to provide, such as the Pelican Centre, run by the Pelican Group in Tyldesley.
The council has already saved £1m a year by opening a new integrated depot and another £1m has been saved through a joint IT contract with Bolton Council.
A further £2.6m a year has been saved by reducing the number of senior managers from 73 to 28 since the government’s austerity measures began.
Money earmarked for investment includes £1m used to pay for apprenticeships for local young people and £500,000 used to improve the highway network and repair potholes.
A further £250,000 has been set aside to pay for events commemorating the centenary of the First World War.
Lord Smith added: “The deal is a long-term campaign aimed at changing the way the council works in response to increased demand and budget challenges.
“By working with residents, we can improve outcomes for local people while reducing the reliance on public services. We have to recognise and adapt to the fact the council has less money and fewer resources.”