New Fenland Council leader Chris Boden pledges to freeze council tax and it will only rise in next four years 'as a last resort'

PUBLISHED: 11:10 19 July 2019 | UPDATED: 11:10 19 July 2019

Cllr Chris Boden, the new leader of Fenland District Council, whose council tax motion could pave the way for a four year freeze for Fenland council tax payers. Picture: HARRY RUTTER/ARCHANT

Cllr Chris Boden, the new leader of Fenland District Council, whose council tax motion could pave the way for a four year freeze for Fenland council tax payers. Picture: HARRY RUTTER/ARCHANT

HARRY RUTTER

New leader Chris Boden hit the floor running by pledging four years free of council tax rises in Fenland.

Cllr Boden, who won the leadership of Fenland Council after May's local elections, pledged that raising council tax in any of the next four years "will be our last resort".

His motion won support from councillors when it was presented to yesterday's (Thursday) full council meeting.

Cllr Boden said the council had frozen council tax for this year but in February councillors had been told the medium term plan showed a 1.98 per cent rise through to 2023/24.

That will now be amended in the light of his challenge to fund the cash to plug any likely deficit.

Cllr Boden said that in five out of the last eight years, the council has approved budgets with no council tax increase.

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"This is a record of which the council can be proud, given the financial constraints which Fenland, as well as all other councils, has had to work within," he said.

"It is the ambition of this administration to maintain zero per cent increases in council tax throughout the medium term financial strategy period for the benefit of residents. "However, it is recognised that the council continues to face significant financial challenges and uncertainties that may not allow this ambition to be met."

He added: "Members of the council need to act responsibly each year when setting the precept to balance the ambition of achieving a 0 per cent council tax rise with the legal need to balance the budget.

"Nevertheless, raising council tax in any of the next four years will be our last resort, as we believe that we have a duty to minimise the financial effects of council tax on all of Fenland's households."

Cllr Gavin Booth (Lib Dem) said the council needs to think carefully about how it is going to fill its funding gap from central government, and felt Cllr Boden's motion was putting "the cart before the horse".

But Cllr Steve Tierney (Con) said he had long argued in favour of keeping council tax as low as possible.

"We may not always achieve a 0 per cent rise but the difference is people used to assume a rise- and now they don't".

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