BREAKING NEWS: Tories reject Government hand out and so Cambs Council Tax will rise by 2.95 per cent
TORY run Cambridgeshire County Council claimed tonight the public support their plans to reject Government cash to stave off a Council Tax rise.
Council leader Nick Clarke said that “councillors have listened to the public and suggested a Council Tax rise of 2.95 per cent to make sure extra investment can be made into vital front line services such as adult social care.”
The decision means the council is rejecting the Coalition Government’s offer of a multi million pound sum offered on condition the council froze Council Tax for the second year running.
Eric Pickles, the communities and local government secretary, had urged councils to take the one-off pay out.
Mr Pickles said: “Freezing council tax is practical help every councillor can offer their constituents. A vote against the Council Tax freeze is a vote for punishing tax rises, and Labour’s opposition to the policy shows their contempt for hard-working households.
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“Local taxpayers will remember that decision next time they cast their vote at the ballot box. Councillors have a moral duty to sign up to keep down the cost of living. “Anything less is a kick in the teeth to hard-working, decent taxpayers.”
But Cambridgeshire is joining a growing number of local councils (Fenland will decide tomorrow night) to defy the offer of help.
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Cllr Clarke said: “Taking this one off payment would have led to the council having to make even more savings this year but an even greater increase in Council Tax in following years.”
He said the rise “still means Cambridgeshire has one of the lowest Council Tax rates in the country. If the council were to take the money on offer from Government, it would leave the authority with a multi-million hole in its budget that would grow larger, to around �30 million over the next five years.”
He added: “At the heart of this budget is the desire to do what is right for Cambridgeshire and our communities while meeting the challenging savings targets.”
Tariq Sadiq, the Labour Opposition spokesman, said it was a difficult call to make since people already struggling to pay their Council Tax could find it even worse further down the line.
He described the choices as “invidious and down to the Tories’ incompetence in managing the economy.” At the end of the day his party was “between a rock and a hard place” on whether the cash should have been taken.
Lib Dem opposition spokesman Councillor Kilian Bourke said: “We have only had our first look at the Tory budget today and will be publishing our alternative proposals in early February.
“You could reasonably point out that we proposed a 3.4% increase last year (because we wanted to protect rural buses, libraries and adult care) but the new Pickles money was not on the table at that time.”
Adult social care and children’s services spending were highlighted as being given extra resource and money is going into superfast broadband and capital schemes such as Chesterton station and a new link road for Ely.
Previous plans to reduce subsidised bus services will be phased over three years and the council will put �1.5 million into alternative and local transport schemes.