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Friday, 27 March 2015

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Cumbria council approves budget to freeze tax and save £24m

Cumbria County Council has frozen its share of council tax bills for the third year in a row.

The decision was taken by council members yesterday.

Councillors agreed to accept a grant from the Government – equivalent to a one per cent rise – in order to freeze the tax. It means their annual share of council tax will stay at £1,161.50 for a Band D house.

Council leader Eddie Martin said he considered it “simply unacceptable” for the council to impose a two per cent increase “at a time when so many are under real financial pressure”.

Deputy leader Stewart Young warned the move would “ultimately [result] in reductions in service.”

“The future holds a great deal of uncertainty, but what is certain is that more savings will need to be made, there will be changes in how services are delivered, and difficult decisions will need to be made,” he said.

“We estimate that in 2014/15 and 2015/16 the council will have to find additional savings worth in the region of £50m, but this could be even higher if we see business rate income falling and the number of council tax support claimants rising.”

The meeting approved a budget which will see the authority make savings of £24.5 million but council staff will get a one per cent pay rise and a £92m capital programme for the year was approved, including £800,000 for new classrooms at Cockermouth School.

Mr Young said local authorities had born the brunt of the government’s austerity measures with the loss of about one third of the government grant.

Brent Kennedy of the Socialist Party in Carlisle handed in a 2,000-signature petition against the cuts.

Councillor Robert Betton proposed an amendment where councillors took a 10 per cent cut in allowances.

But his proposal failed because he did not have a seconder.

The budget was given unanimous approval.


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