Updated: Council Tax will be frozen in Mansfield

Mansfield Civic Centre, home of Mansfield District Council.

Mansfield Civic Centre, home of Mansfield District Council.

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Council tax set by Mansfield District Council will be frozen for the next year, it was agreed this week.

The issue was put before the full council at the monthly meeting on Wednesday an was approved by 20 votes to 16.

Mansfield mayor Kate Allsop said the freeze for the second year running was a pledge made when she was elected which she intended to keep.

But Labour councillors who voted against the measure say if the Council Tax is not raised the cash strapped authority will hit a crisis point with cutbacks in vital services.

It comes despite further reductions in Government grants.

Mrs Allsop said:”I am delighted that we have been able to keep our portion of the Council Tax to zero increase.

“I know that Nottinghamshire County Council will be putting theirs up but they carry the burden of social care.

“As a council we have to manage our finances and produce a balanced budget which we have achieved without putting Council Tax up.”

She said the authority is working at generating new money for the council, selling services and working with its officers to find savings.

The cross party select commission made a recommendation that the council raise the Council Tax by 1.9 per cent, a position backed by the Labour group.

Mrs Allsop said: “The select commission looked at the budget and thought that raising £105,000 from tax was a good idea.

“I made the pledge not to dip into the pockets of the electorate and I intend to keep that pledge.”

“We are not looking at making those cuts , yet we have a balanced budget by managing our money effectively.

“We do consult with the public - we have a huge consultation about Meden baths for example and the management services we provide.

“The Government grant for the financial year 2011/12 was £10,366000 and in 2016/17 £5,698,000 which is a massive reduction.”

She said the authority had recently been given a grant for £130,000 from the Economic Prosperity Committee in Nottinghamshire for feasibility work.

Town Mill has been awarded £1.7 millon from the Heritage Lottery Fund and there was another funding deal in the pipeline.

She added:”There is a massive reduction in the Government grant.

“We are looking to be more efficient and how we can meet the services we provide at either a gold, silver or bronze standard.

“These are tough times for councils.”

Leader of the Labour group Councillor Sonya Ward said: “The government grant Mansfield and District receives has been cut by almost £5 million a year by the Tories, and even after making services more efficient, we can’t magic money from nowhere.”

She says if things continue as they are by 2020/21 the authority will have a deficit of £4 million.

Coun Ward added: “In the 2017/18 years Budget, the council will be looking to find £100,000 efficiency reductions in council services. This follows this year where we have already taken two per cent off every budget line.

“This is on top of the target for 2017/2018 for service reviews which will be aiming to make a reduction of £801,000

“There is also a reduction in funding of £330k from the budget for discretionary services.

“Discretionary services don’t have to be delivered, but these services are wide ranging, and include things like litter clearing, tenancy support, homelessness services, maintaining our parks, recycling, domestic violence, neighbourhood wardens, the ASSIST service for elderly and disabled residents and more - and cuts to all or any of these services could be reduced by around £100k this year if council tax were to increase by less than 21p a month for most residents.

“The bottom line is that at some point there’s got to be an increase in income or we’ve got to cut or reduce services that really matter.”

She said raising council tax by 1.99 per cent (which is £2.45 a year for a band A property, or £3.69 for a Band D) will not plug the gap. However, it would help to protect the services the people value most.

Coun Ward added: “After months of careful scrutiny of the budget by Overview and Scrutiny 3, which is the budget scrutiny committee, members of all parties; i.e. the Mansfield Independent Forum, UKIP and Labour all reluctantly reached the same conclusion – that a small increase in council tax is the only way the council can safeguard the services we need. They voted unanimously at this committee that this was the responsible and right thing to do.

“We do not think that the change should be imposed on people without consultation, we respect the public’s wisdom and judgement and asked that The Council, in future should consult with the public on the budget as most other Local authorities do both on their views about increases in council tax, or if there is no increase, that we consult with them on which services they value most and which can be cut. This proposal was made to Full Council last night but voted out by the Mayor and the MIF/UKIP coalition.”