Tories trumpet Council Tax freeze

South Gloucestershire Council

Ratepayers in Bradley Stoke will see no increase in the amount of Council Tax they pay in 2011/2012 following decisions by all four charging bodies to freeze their respective tax demands at 2010/2011 levels.

South Gloucestershire Council (SGC), Avon and Somerset Police and Avon Fire & Rescue have all decided to set zero percent increases, thereby securing ‘Council Tax Freeze Grants’ from central government, worth £2.8m (equivalent to a 1.6% tax rise) to SGC alone.

Bradley Stoke Town Council (BSTC), which is not eligible for the government sweetener, has also declared an unchanged precept – leading to a unaltered total bill of £1,580 for the ‘average’ band D property in the town.

Opposition groups supported Conservative-led SGC’s tax freeze but were critical of the lack of detail on proposed cuts and the need to dip into the authority’s reserves.

In setting a budget of £196 million council, SGC says it will implement a set of initiatives to help it run more efficiently, which it hopes will save taxpayers just over £9 million during 2011/12.

The projected savings include £6.6 million through simplifying its ‘back office’ function (rising to around £10 million per year eventually); £1.2 million through reducing the number of senior managers working at the Council (rising to around £2 million eventually) and £1.4 million by procuring goods and services more efficiently (rising to between £7 million and £9 million eventually).

The efficiency savings will see more than 300 Council jobs axed over the next two years.

In addition to the projected savings, the Council will need to take £2.3 million from its reserves in order to balance the books.

The Town Council’s 2011/2012 budget also foresees a shortfall – of nearly £19k (equivalent to a 2.3% precept rise) but Councillors voted unanimously to set a zero percent precept rise and fund the defecit from reserves.

Referring to SGC’s injection of an extra £58k into youth club provision in Bradley Stoke, Mayor Ben Walker said:

“This budget is good news for the people of Bradley Stoke. Not only are we receiving some much needed extra investment for our young people but the Council Tax freeze dovetails nicely with the Town Council precept freeze as a shining example of Conservative efficiency.”

Expressing his disappointment that opposition councillors, including Bradley Stoke North representative Cllr Jon Williams (Lib Dem), didn’t support the budget, he added:

“It beggars belief that a representative of Bradley Stoke would not support this budget. Cllr Williams should have put politics aside and voted with the Conservatives on this one.”

Cllr Ruth Davis, Leader of the Lib Dem group on SGC, said:

“Many of these savings have yet to be worked out and until you make the details public there will be no guarantee that these savings will not actually be cuts. What we know is that it really is a case of the devil is in the detail.”

SGC Labour Group Leader Cllr Roger Hutchinson said:

“The Tory-led Government has South Gloucestershire in a headlock. We support a Council Tax freeze for hard-pressed families but we are being bribed with our own money in the form of a one-off special grant to achieve it. It is a political con trick. The Government has made it clear that it will penalise us if we do not do what it says. This proves the emptiness of its commitment to localism.”

Footnote: Bradley Stoke Councillor Robert Jones (Conservative) was forced to make an apology after he published an insensitive message about “not making enough cuts” on the social media website Twitter prior to SGC’s budget setting meeting.

Cllr Robert Jones - What a Twit!

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  1. There may be a freeze on an increase in council tax, which is to be welcomed, but services will be cut along with jobs to achieve it. You will pay what you paid last year but get less for your money-that seems fair! And there will be 300 more people out of work!
    Could we not see a reduction in S. Glos councillors -that would save a lot of money in expenses and a lot of hot air and acrimonious worthless banter!
    Oh! I forgot there’s an election coming up so need to score a few political points against the opposition.

  2. Totally agree Sid, isn’t it strange how a 5% saving in SGC’s budget can be found instantly just by getting rid of some dead wood and inefficient working practices, performed years ago in the private sector yet prolonged at all levels of council as it’s funded by the easy-to-milk tax payer. But there’s a bottomless pit of money when it comes to putting in speed bumps, traffic lights, bus lanes and other so-called road “improvements”.

    So BSTC has to dip into its reserves to fund a £19k shortfall – well this money is easily recovered looking at the waste and expenditure on councillors pet projects apparent in the monthly accounts.

    And as for Labour councillor Roger Hutchinson, please remind us which political party when in government more than doubled the council tax for this area, withholding funding year on year?

  3. It’s interesting that the BSJ prints the facts about the recent decision to freeze the Council Tax by SGC stating that ALL parties supported the Council Tax freeze. However, those residents who have recently received an “In Touch” from Ben Walker and the Tory party will see that they have rewritten history saying “At a recent council meeting, your local Conservatives pushed through a freeze, despite Lib Dem and Labour councillors failing to vote in support of it”.

    If readers need to check the facts I’m sure the Council minutes will revel all.

    All this on top of Cllr Robert Jones (Bradley Stoke South) “tweeting” “..Clearly we’re not cutting enough”.

    And for the record I was very happy to support the Council Tax freeze for both SGC and BSTC.

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