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Monday, 20 October 2014

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Cumbria council bids to freeze tax rates - but must find £24m savings

Cumbria could see a freeze in council tax rates for the third year in a row if a proposed budget is approved.

Members of Cumbria County Council’s Cabinet heard that the authority had to find a total of £24.5 million in savings for the coming year.

Stewart Young, the council’s deputy leader, said it was originally thought that they would have had to find savings of about £18 million.

He added: “This has been one of the most difficult budgets, I think we’ve said that for the past three years, but this one has been.”

Mr Young said that Government funding had been lower than expected.

The budget includes £1.25m to cover an expected one per cent pay award for council staff – the pay award will be negotiated at a national level later in the year.

Mr Young said that the proposed budget was based on the county council accepting the Government’s council tax freeze grant.

He warned that further savings would need to be found of £50m in the coming years and that, in making the savings identified so far, they had protected frontline services as far as possible.

“That will be increasingly difficult to do in the coming years and that will be extremely challenging for the new council,” he said.

And he praised the track record of the authority’s Conservative/Labour coalition – the only one in the country.

He said: “I am very proud that here in Cumbria we have taken a mature approach. We are working for the best interests of the people of Cumbria and I am very proud of that.”

County council leader Eddie Martin said they had done ‘exceptionally well’ when other authorities had been slashing services.

He added that he had reservations about accepting the council tax freeze grant because the money would have to be found when it was no longer on offer from Government.

Members recommended the budget and it will be considered by the full council on Thursday.

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