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New homes cash could plug gaps in council tax budget - Tories

Redditch Editorial 23rd Jan, 2015 Updated: 18th Oct, 2016

CALLS have been made for money from building new homes in the borough to be used to keep down council tax.

Conservative councillors have urged the ruling Labour group to take up the Government’s offer of freezing council tax in return for a grant equivalent to a one per cent rise in bills.

Council chiefs are known to be against the freeze as the money is not built into the base budget, meaning effectively once the grant money ends they are left with a hole in the finances that has to be filled on top of savings already being made due to cuts in government funding.

The current budget plan includes a 1.9 per cent rise in Redditch Borough Council’s portion of the bill each year over the next three years but councillors can choose to make their own decision when the budget is set in February.

But Coun Juliet Brunner, Conservative group leader, said they were set to receive £800,000 in 2015/16 from the New Homes Bonus and more than £2million over the next two years. She said on top of additional business rates the authority would receive, it would offset the £647,000 cut in government funding for next year.

“You could freeze council tax for hard pressed families and make up the difference by building more homes.” she told an executive committee meeting on Tuesday (January 20).

But the idea was savaged by Coun John Fisher, responsible for corporate management.

“You can’t just pick out a small part of income and expenditure and come up with a magic figure that tries to imply we have more money to spend.” he said.

“The bottom line is we have a lot less money to spend and we are trying to meet that challenge in the right way and all we get from the Conservative group is opportunism.”

Council leader Bill Hartnett insisted they had made no decision on the council tax but would not be drawn on whether or not they were considering accepting the Government’s offer of a freeze.

“There has been a 52 per cent cut by this government since 2010/11 in the local government settlement and that’s a real cut.”

County council leader Adrian Hardman has already warned Worcestershire County Council’s share of the bill will rise in April.

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