Council Tax increase forced through

A COUNCIL Tax increase of 2.95 per cent was forced through by councillors on Thursday despite a last minute proposal to scrap the increase tabled by Liberal Democrats.

Conservative councillors voted to reject a motion put forward by Lib Dem Ian Allen that would have seen the authority freeze Council Tax for the second consecutive year, instead accepting a grant of �101,520 from Government in lieu of the increase.

The average bill for a Band D homeowner will go up by �3.99 over the year as a result of the decision.

Councillor Peter Moakes, leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “It has been a very tough three years for our district council – each recent budget has been met with difficult choices that affected the lives of many.

“However, the authority’s finances are now far more robust, so despite now being a lean organisation we are in a much better place to cope with the demands of the services which our residents need.

“While of course we would have preferred to have frozen our Council Tax and accepted the one-off offer funding from the Government – we feared doing so would leave a hole in a budget in future years and damage the sound financial position we have worked so hard to restore.”

Cllr Ian Allen hit back however, saying: “Following a debate on the amendment to reject the Conservative tax rise of 2.95 per cent, instead accepting the 2.5 per cent grant from central government, which would have meant that local taxpayers paid nothing extra, a vote was held.

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“The record of that vote was that all the Conservatives voted to raise the tax and all the Liberal Democrats voted to take the 2.5 per cent grant. Better than that , the Independent Group members all voted with the Liberal Democrats.

“The chief financial officer had given an appraisal of the robustness of the reserves and when questioned confirmed that they were more than adequate, there simply was no need for a rise that would take money out of the local economy this year.”

A motion to reduce the amount of money committed to the council’s surplus savings reserve from �177,957 to �167,957 in order to grant Ely and Soham Dial-a-Ride �10,000 was also defeated.

The council is in the middle of a four year financial strategy - which was approved last year - to deliver savings of more than �2 million by 2015.