Sheffield Council ‘turned down’ almost £2 million in Government cash by choosing to increase residents’ tax bills, Deputy Prime Minister and city MP Nick Clegg has said.
In its proposed budget for 2015-16 – set to be agreed in March – the authority has planned to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent, ending a four-year freeze.
The Government has offered councils an additional grant equivalent to a one per cent rise in council tax to authorities who freeze bills.
But the council said it will raise £1.3m over what it would get from the so-called ‘freeze grant’ by increasing bills, and that the tax rise will equate to 38p a week for most Sheffield households.
However, Sheffield Hallam MP Mr Clegg has pointed to statistics which show the council would have received £1.97m – as a top-up to its block grant from central Government – if it had frozen tax.
Mr Clegg said: “It beggars belief that Labour are turning down nearly £2m from central Government and are instead choosing to take it out of the pockets of local pensioners and hardworking families who can least afford it.
“It will be especially galling for Sheffield residents that they are being stung for extra tax when the council have over £31m of uncollected tax sat out there.”
Coun Ben Curran, cabinet member for finance, said he found Mr Clegg’s comments ‘remarkable’.
“We have frozen council tax for the past four years, but the problem is that Nick Clegg has now taken away 50 per cent of our main Government grant and we can no longer afford to continue to freeze tax,” he said.
“The money that the Government is offering is only equal to a one per cent rise in council tax. The increase raises extra money which is vital in protecting frontline services. Last year we accepted the freeze grant in good faith. This year we were told that we weren’t going to receive that funding anymore, leaving a bigger hole in the council’s finances than we should have had.”