Council to freeze tax

Sheffield Council announces a zero percent increase in council tax. From left, Councillors Leigh Bramall, Bryan Lodge, Julie Dore, Helen Mirfin-Boukouris and Harry Harpham
Sheffield Council announces a zero percent increase in council tax. From left, Councillors Leigh Bramall, Bryan Lodge, Julie Dore, Helen Mirfin-Boukouris and Harry Harpham
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COUNCIL tax is to be frozen again for next year, cash-strapped Sheffield households were promised today.

The Government is offering councils across the country funding to pay for a council tax freeze, provided they do not increase spending. Sheffield is receiving £4.9 million.

Town Hall bosses had previously warned they might have to increase charges by up to three per cent - but the Government cash input means council tax will now stay at the same level for the third year running.

Coun Dore said the move should help ‘struggling’ households including families and pensioners.

“We will accept the extra funding which has been offered, to ensure council tax levels can be frozen for another year,” she said.

Other councils around South Yorkshire have not yet revealed whether they will also be freezing council tax.

In Sheffield the freeze was warmly welcomed by Jacqueline Milner, of Sheffield Pensioners’ Action Group.

She said: “It’s wonderful news. At least that’s one thing that is not going up when our members who are on low incomes are having to cope with rising prices in the shops and increasing energy bills.”

Sheffield Hallam MP and Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said: “The Government has made it possible for the Labour council to deliver a council tax freeze after the Lib Dem administration did not increase council tax last year and had the lowest-ever increases in the previous years.”

But Sheffield Council leader Julie Dore has warned council jobs will go, and some services could face the axe, as the authority faces another hefty budget cut next year.

The Labour-run council must find another £52 million of savings from its current £500m budget during 2012/13.

“We are currently undergoing a review of all council services to see where the savings can be made,” she said.

Coun Dore pledged to try to avoid library closures.

“We want to continue to provide a library service to all communities across the city, although we will review how it is provided,” she said, adding she is keen to protect other facilities at libraries too, such as internet access, reading clubs and Bookstart, through which parents receive free books to encourage young children to read.

She revealed the council’s spending review is examining which statutory services have to be provided, then assessing which others could be changed.

“We will then look at what our political priorities are, and what services we provide such as street cleaning and grass cutting. We have to balance everything up, then decide what to do,” she said.

Coun Dore said redundancies are inevitable.

“We will have job losses to come but we have not decided how many and we will try to make sure they are voluntary,” she said.

Last year, the council made only 273 people redundant - but lost hundreds of other posts by axing vacant positions and through people retiring or volunteering to leave.

She said savings at the council could be made by ‘further integrating’ departments which still have separate buildings close together, to share accommodation and facilities.

And she said officials in each department have been asked to come up with savings equivalent to 17.5 per cent of current budgets.

“We will then look at whether some budgets should be protected, while others may be cut 100 per cent,” she added.

COUNCIL TAX BY BAND, PER YEAR

A £983.49

B £1,147.41

C £1,311.33

D £1,475.25

E £1,803.08

F £2,130.90

G £2,458.74

H £2,950.49