A Mayor calls for council tax to be frozen

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DONCASTER households could see council tax frozen at last year’s levels under plans before cabinet today.

Mayor Peter Davies was due to put the matter before cabinet and a final decision is due to go before the full council next month.

Council Tax would be held at the 2010-11 rate, which is £1,101.71. A Council Tax Freeze Grant will be received from Government based on 2.5 per cent increase, say documents which will be discussed today.

The report states: “The proposal is to maintain Council Tax at the 2010-11 rate for 2011-12.

“For information, the latest Consumer Price Index, the Government’s preferred inflation measure, and the more broadly based Retail Prices Index were announced on January 18 at 3.7 per cent and 4.8 per cent respectively.

“Discussions with other authorities suggest the proposed Doncaster Council tax freeze should maintain Doncaster’s position as the third lowest council tax of the 36 metropolitan councils.” Mayor of Doncaster Peter Davies said: “Putting together this year’s budget has been more challenging than ever due to the cuts imposed on us by central government.

“I have always said that there is money to be saved in local authorities and we should focus our spend on frontline services.

“That said, with £30 million to save from next year’s budget we are all going to see changes to services at the Council and difficult times are ahead.

“Elected members have been involved throughout the budget setting process in the hope that we can reach an agreement to what is the best way forward for Doncaster.

“It is vitally important we make the right decisions which cause the least adverse effects on residents and Council staff.

“I have proposed that no local authority care homes for older people are to close in this financial year and that the council will continue to meet the moderate care needs for older people, subject to assessment, unlike many other Councils.”

Unison Doncaster Council branch convenor Jim Board was disappointed at plans for a freeze when jobs were being lost and said he did not believe it was justified.

He said: “To have a council tax freeze when we are facing the budget cuts that we are looking at is ridiculous.”

But Coun Paul Coddington, leader of the Lib Dems on the authority, said he thought there was unlikely to be much opposition to the freeze.

“It is certainly going to be better than an increase in council tax - I think people will be happy with it.

“I think there has been pressure on councils from the Government not to increase council tax rates.”

Leader of the Community Group councillors, Coun Martin Williams, said: “There may be a council tax freeze, but there is an icy wind blowing across it with the jobs and frontline services which we are losing.”

The freeze comes as the council is looking to make £70 million savings over the next three years.

Councillors have voted to cut the maximum redundancy pay to 30 weeks pay, half the previous 60 weeks. Talks are continuing over possible changes to staff terms and conditions.

Unions are unhappy about the decision to reduce redundancy pay.

Jim Board said: “Unison’s position has been that we can see no legitimate reason to reduce it. We feel it was opportunistic and sends the wrong message. It says not only can we get rid of you, but we can do it cheaper.”

He was disappointed that Labour councillors voted in favour of the reduction .

Labour group leader Coun Sandra Holland said Labour councillors are doing their best in very difficult financial circumstances imposed by the Government.

She said: “We are making it our priority to try to protect frontline services and jobs. We do not want to reduce the redundancy scheme but did so because by doing that we would save 111 jobs in the authority.”