A MOVE to freeze council tax for the next two years was blocked by Conservative councillors.
Despite claims Bromsgrove District Council could afford it by the leader of the Labour group Coun Luke Mallett, a motion was put forward at the full council meeting, last Wednesday (September 24). It was defeated 18 to 13 when Labour and independent members voted for and all the Conservatives voted against.
The amendment to freeze the current rate instead of going ahead with the planned rise came about after it was revealed the council had saved more than £600,000 allowing it to top-up its balances for this year’s unallocated reserves.
For the past two years the authority has increased the council tax and Bromsgrove residents have footed two per cent rises.
Coun Mallett claimed the unplanned budget surplus reflected the pattern of the past three years where balance budgets had been set by the authority but then at the end of the year hundreds of thousands had been left unused.
He added the council was now holding several million in the general balances and said it was difficult to see how the Conservative leadership could justify another tax rise when services and staff were being cut and the reserves were growing well ahead of their budget each year.
“I am dumbfounded the Conservatives voted against a tax freeze for next year despite clear evidence it was both affordable for the council and would not affect the balances even over a five-year period.
“At the end of the day these funds from ongoing council tax hikes are not being spent to protect services or keep council staff in Bromsgrove, they are sitting in the bank.”
Coun Mike Webb, responsible for finance, said the authority had kept council tax as low as possible and had made savings which the public was pleased about.
He added a council tax freeze would have had a knock-on effect as the money would be lost to the authority over several years.
Council leader, Coun Margaret Sherrey, backed Coun Webb and said it was all about pre-planning.
She added: “A freeze means if you do not put it up that year what do you do the next year – double it?
“We understand some people are sceptical but you have to look after public money.”
A council spokesperson said the £600,000 was a result of prudent spending and the council voted against Coun Mallet’s proposal because the council tax was not being set until February next year.
She added a decision would be made on any changes when all facts were known about the budget for 2015/16.