THE LEADER of Bromsgrove Labour Group savaged the district council’s annual budget and council tax rise for the forthcoming year as it was voted through last Wednesday.
Coun Michael Thompson labelled it an ‘unaspirational’ budget and accused the Conservatives of being the ‘giveaway’ party, criticising them for the cash paid to Parkside and £150,000 to the Greater Birmingham LEP when it was already benefiting from the Worcestershire LEP.
It also criticised the council over £150,000 being earmarked to traffic consultant Mott MacDonald because Worcestershire County Council’s transport plan was ‘not fit for purpose’.
Both Labour and the Independent Alliance Group rounded on the council, saying the cash paid to Mott MacDonald should be claimed back from the county council.
Coun Thompson talked about the Labour Manifesto for May’s local election where the party promises free swimming for the 18s, to rebuild the sports hall, to invest in green spaces and community gardens, build cycle racks in the town centre and reintroduce the pensioners’ pass.
He called for the council to make better use of its assets and review the costs of the senior management team to making savings.
The Conservatives hit back saying, with the 2.99 per cent council tax increase on the district council’s part of the bill there would be no cuts to services.
The increase means those living in the average band D property would be charged an extra £6.47 for the year by the district council for the services it provides.
The Council Tax Support scheme was also agreed which means working age claimants on low incomes can receive 85 per cent relief on their council tax bills and care leavers up to the age of 25 can get up to 100 per cent relief on theirs.
The average overall band D council tax bill in Bromsgrove District, which also includes the charges for Worcestershire County Council, parish councils, the police, and the fire and rescue service, will be £1,809.57 this year. That equates to an overall increase of 4.48 per cent rise or £77.56 for the year.
Coun Brian Cooper, Bromsgrove District Council’s portfolio holder for finance and enabling, said: “We have delivered a balanced budget without a reduction in services to residents or the use of our cash balances.
“The council faces a challenging few years ahead due to well publicised problems with local government funding, and so it is with some reluctance that we have increased our part of the council tax.”
Bromsgrove District Council leader Coun Geoff Denaro added: “From providing parks to emptying the bins, we’ve set out a balanced budget to provide the things residents tell us they want, with no cuts despite a financial climate that continues to be very challenging for us and all councils.
“We have also moved to protect working age people on low incomes, not just pensioners, from the increases across the board by increasing our Council Tax Support scheme.”
The Independent Alliance Group’s deputy leader Steve Colella criticised the authority’s plans, saying he was concerned its medium term financial plan left the district council vulnerable to a year-on-year drawdown of reserves whilst maximising tax increases.
“What we’re saying is that we expect to see tangible efficiency savings as well as increasing income.”