Thursday, 26 May 2011

Conservative councillors question council tax rise

Council Revenue Spending Power per
head, 2011-12 - Full size map
(pdf, 1330 kb)
(Updated 27/5/11, figures clarified): The Conservative group on Lancaster City Council has voiced their disapproval of the draft corporate plan and medium term financial strategy which includes the council's aim to keep Council Tax increases to no more than two per cent for 2012/13 and 2013/14.

"In the Conservative campaign literature we promised not to increase council tax and we oppose the Corporate Plan based on these principles," says Councillor Peter Williamson of the Conservative group.

"The main concern that was voiced to the Conservative candidates on the doorstep during the election period was not necessarily the quality of the services the council provides but the level of council tax that people had to pay.

"Many other councils all over the country have managed to freeze council tax and some even to cut it. Why is it that Lancaster City council is unable to do this? It seems this council needs to start living within its means and stop putting their hands into the pockets of the tax payers."

The Group issued their statement just as Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles, announced that the public will be given the power to veto excessive council tax rises. A 'spending heat map' issued last week by the government suggests councils' revenue spending across England will be almost £53 billion this year to spend on services, despite the need to reduce the inherited budget deficit.

Figures released by the Government indicate the average Band D council tax set by local authorities in England for 2011-12 will be £1,439, (2010-11 £1,439). The average Band D council tax will be £1,308 in London, £1,399 in metropolitan areas and £1,484 in shire areas and £1,469 in the North West.

The combined Band D rate within the Lancaster City Council area for 2011/12 is £1,510.47  according to figures released, before any discounts such as single occupancy are applied, but is higher in areas such as Wennington, where the Band D rate is £1,562.05.

Data indicating Council tax (average Band D and average per dwelling) and % change: individual local authorities 2011-12 (Excel document) indicates that for Band D households, the overall council tax has risen by one per cent in South Lakeland; 0.3% in Preston; 0.6% in the Fylde; and 0.1% in Lancaster.

The City Council points out that this is the combined overall Council Tax we pay, which, locally, includes elements paid to Lancashire County Council, the police and fire authorities as well as Lancaster City Council.  

The city council's Band D precept in 2011/12 is actually £192.25 of that overall tax and of the 12 district councils in Lancashire, six have higher rates - the highest being Preston at £260, £67.25 more than Lancaster.

However, it's clear the government is out to try and push councils to look toward greater "efficiencies" and "best value" - which probably means we won't see the last of cuts to valued services, which were already under attack from the previous government even before the financial crisis that prompted the Comprehensive Spending Review.

"Despite the need to pay off the budget deficit, councils are spending £53 billion this year, equivalent to an average of £1,000 for every man, woman and child," noted Mr Pickles. "Local taxpayers should now go compare and check they are receiving value for money for the spend they get.

"The poorest areas receive the most money," he claims. "But some of the councils with the best services receive the least. Whether you live in north and south, rural and urban, metropolitan and shire, what people want to see is value for money."

1 comment:

Rick Seymour said...

Surely the Conservative Group need to grow up and realise they cannot simply scream "woe is me" as the opposition.

They didn't even put forward a candidate for Leader of the Council. They seem happy for someone else to deal with the problem this council faces.

Lancaster City Council has debts of £40m, most of it's expansion plans being funded by selling off it's assets and a grant settlement that would make most accountants cry.

So if the Tories want to freeze council tax, then can they please step up to the mark and say where spending of either revenue or capital spending could be cut... just like Labour nationally is avoiding the difficult decisions needed.... the Tories are doing just the same locally.