Council tax in the Cotswolds to fall by more than anywhere else in the UK, Cotswold District Council has announced
COUNCIL tax in the Cotswolds is to fall by more five per cent – more than anywhere else in the country.
The plans, believed to be the biggest drop in council tax in the country, were unveiled in a shock last-minute announcement at Tuesday’s meeting of Cotswold District Council.
Council leader Cllr Lynden Stowe (Con, Campden-Vale) said the plans – which will see bills for a Band D property reduce by £7.22 a year in April – would benefit residents across the district.
“The message we want to give to people in the Cotswolds is this – we are on your side,” he said. “We want this council to play a part in keeping bills down for the people of the Cotswolds.”
He also announced a raft of spending plans for the financial year 2013/14, including a freeze to parking charges for the next three years and a £1m investment into a scheme to help young people and first-time buyers get on the housing ladder.
Not everyone was impressed, however – Cotswold Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Paul Hodgkinson said residents were still being “bled dry”.
“Even with a five per cent council tax freeze the Band D total is still much higher than other districts,” he said. “Seven pounds a year – that’s all it is. That’s the cost of a couple of chocolate bars.”
After a debate lasting several hours the proposals were approved unanimously.
THE MAIN POINTS
• The total budget for the financial year 2013/14 is £9,014,414.
• Council tax will be cut by five per cent, funded by savings made as a result of joint working arrangements with other local authorities including West Oxfordshire District Council.
• Around 40 per cent of the council’s funding in the coming financial year will come directly from the government’s new business rates pooling scheme. This opt-in scheme sees rates paid by businesses in Gloucestershire kept within the county rather than paid out to central government before being redistributed. However, this means that income from council tax is set to fall by eight per cent.
• Among grants the council will receive from the government are £630,008 from the New Homes Bonus – a reward for building houses across the district – and a £55,334 incentive to freeze council tax.
• Major projects the council will be funding include £1m for a scheme to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder and £100,000 for flood mitigation works, which was recently approved following flooding across the district in November and December last year.
• £150,000 is to be invested to buy improved payment machines for the district’s car parks so residents can pay by card and to improve signage to make charges clear.
• The council also plans to make £857,894 in savings including £170,000 from outsourcing the management of leisure centres and the Corinium Museum and £190,000 from the setting up of waste management company UBICO with Cheltenham Borough Council.
• Charges for parking, green waste collections, council-run leisure centres and the Corinium Museum have been frozen for three years.
• Councillor’s allowances have been fixed at £4,000 per year. Members with special responsibilities will continue to receive additional allowances, with council leader Lynden Stow (Con, Campden-Vale) receiving an extra £12,000 a year and each cabinet member receiving an extra £6,000.
• The council also holds £400,351 in Icelandic bank Glitnir, which it is unable to access until the country’s government approves the release of the funds. However, the investment is earning a favourable interest rate if 3.40 per cent.
• Pest control charges have been cut by 10 per cent, effective immediately.
COTSWOLD District Council have pledged to drop council tax by five per cent in the coming financial year, a reduction of £7.22 a year for a Band D property – and freeze it at this rate until 2016.
Meanwhile, Gloucestershire County Council have agreed to freeze their portion of rates while the county’s new Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl has increased his portion of council tax by two per cent.
This means bills for a Band D property will break down as follows: • Cotswold District Council: £137.16.
• Gloucestershire County Council (including Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service): £1,090.50.
• Police and Crime Commissioner: £203.68.
• TOTAL: £1,431.34.
This represents a decrease of £3.23 a year.
Rates paid to town and parish councils are set to increase by an average of around £2 to £58.97 a year, making the total average bill for a Band D property £1,489.61.
Residents in Tetbury will be paying the most with the town council precept set at £112.29, making an annual bill for a Band D property £1,543.63.
Bills in Stow-on-the-Wold will be the second highest in the district at £1,542.36 with the town council precept set at £111.02.
Cirencester residents will pay an average of £1,537.49 – the third highest in the district – with the town council precept set at £106.15.
Residents in some of the district’s smaller communities such as Ampney St Mary, Farmington, Notgrove and Batsford, will not pay any town or parish precept, making bills a total of £1,438.56.
WHERE YOUR MONEY IS GOING
• Overall spending is set to decrease by four per cent from £10,464,382 to £10,036,984.
• £1,278,560 on parking services. This includes an increase of £55,000 to cover the cost of on-street enforcement being provided by Gloucestershire County Council. However, CDC is predicting an income of £2,701,155 from charges and fines, meaning it is expecting to make a (profit) of £1,437,595 on the service.
• £3,634,435 on bin collections and recycling. Although costs have increased by £515,640 to £5,497,265 as a result of setting up waste provider UBICO with Cheltenham Borough Council, overall spending is down by £10,030 to £3,634,435.
• £1,653,860 on the running of leisure centres across the district as well as Cirencester’s Corinium Museum. This includes an expected saving of £170,000 as part of the council’s plans to outsource management of the museum and leisure centres and represents an overall decrease of £315,090 from last year.
• £408,810 on toilets, pest control and other environmental services. This is an increase of £19,070 on last year.
• £547,140 on housing services including providing affordable homes and an additional £50,000 to help battle homelessness in the district. An increase of £33,705 on last year.
• £1,155,330 on democratic services, including support to councillors and press liaison. An increase of £8,490 on last year.
• £63,485 on drainage, including maintenance of ditches and pipes. This is an increase of £1,630 on last year.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS PRESENT ALTERNATIVES
THE Liberal Democrat group on CDC presented an alternative budget at Tuesday’s meeting making three suggestions:
• To make the first half hour of parking in all council-run car parks free and to cancel the 24-hour charges at Cirencester’s Brewery Car Park. This would be funded from the New Homes Bonus grant from central government.
• A new, reduced, charge structure at all the council’s car parks. Cllr Hodgkinson argued this would lead to an increase in the car parks being used and therefore any costs involved in setting it up would be covered.
• Pumping £20,000 from the New Homes Bonus into the council’s Housing Enabling Fund, helping increase the amount of affordable housing in the district and bring empty homes back into use.
However, all three amendments were voted down.