Council-tax cut attempt is rejected

A LAST-minute call for council-tax charges to be cut in Hucknall was crushed during a heated meeting of Ashfield District Council.

A debate raged for almost three hours as councillors met to discuss Ashfield’s budget for the coming year on Tuesday night.

As reported in last week’s Dispatch, the ruling Labour Party, through its Cabinet, had already unveiled its intentions to freeze council tax.

This was part of an overall budget designed to save cash while protecting frontline services — despite a drastic reduction in the money it receives from central government.

But the opposing Liberal Democrats tabled a motion for a 2.5% cut in the proportion of council tax charged by Ashfield.

The party claimed this was workable because of millions of pounds worth of reserves held by Ashfield Council.

Coun Austin Rathe (Lib Dem), of Hucknall, who is a former deputy leader of the council, said: “A council-tax freeze would help the residents of this district but a cut would help them more.

“This council has built up huge reserves by taxing the residents of this district. It is not our money, it is theirs.”

The council’s leader, Coun John Knight (Lab), responded: “We have had several senior finance officers and independent auditors say we need these reserves and they are prudent.”

Coun Gail Turner (Ind) described the Liberal Democrats’ proposals as “pure electioneering”.

She added: “This budget is good and sensible, with no redundancies and no frontline services cut.

“We must be careful with our money because there are more Liberal Democrat/Conservative cuts on the way.”

The motion for a freeze in council-tax was passed. It means residents living in a Band A properties will pay £1,060.13 in total for the year 2011/12, while householders living in Band B properties will fork out £1,236.82.

The council’s overall budget was passed too, with a few small amendments.

One of these will see £60,000 a year spent on recruiting two extra community protection officers (CPOs) to bolster the council’s task force which deals with anti-social behaviour.

A funding pot that provides each of the district’s 33 councillors with £1,000 a year to spend on worthwhile community projects will also be reinstated.

Money will be set aside too to revive the annual civic bonfire and fireworks display, which was axed last year as a cost-cutting measure.