Bid to freeze Council Tax for a third year

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AMBER Valley Borough Council is set to freeze the amount of council tax it receives for the third year in a row.

The controlling Tory group’s proposed budget of £12.746 million for the next year was due to be decided at the next meeting of Amber Valley Borough Council tonight, February 29.

It comes as the council enters the second year of a two-year programme of finding £2 million in savings, having already saved £1.4 million last year.

Leader of the council Cllr Stuart Bradford said: “We are here to maintain low taxes. That’s our focus and our objective which is especially important in the current climate. Life is more challenging than it used to be a few years ago. I think the days of going out to the public and saying, ‘Can we have some more in terms of increased taxes?’ Are over.”

Also, householders will not have to pay any more for policing next year after the county’s Police Authority agreed to freeze its share of the council tax.

Members of Derbyshire Police Authority met to discuss this year’s budget and decided to keep the policing element of the council tax bill at last year’s levels as a result of the financial hardship facing many residents.

Fire and police authorities are not due to set their council tax precepts until tomorrow. In Belper, there will be no increase in the town council’s portion of council tax bill for this year.

This year the borough council will receive a one-off grant of £156,000, as well as the £6.5 million settlement grant from the Government. Council revenue has been hit by the recession in some areas, with building control, planning and land charges down 35 per cent compared to five years ago.

Cllr Bradford said the council was not looking at compulsory redundancies among staff , but was looking at making more savings. “We’re looking for a more efficient and modern way of working.”

The council employs just under 300 people and it says seven workers have taken advantage of its voluntary redundancy policy.

It also plans to either vacate its Ripley headquarters or share it with other companies. It is in the process of moving staff to just two of the building’s four floors.

Currently around ten per cent of the work force work from home at least one day a week.

But Cllr Bradford warned savings would get progressively harder to make: “But at the end of the day we have got to cut our cloth accordingly,” he added. “I am acutely aware of how difficult times are for people right now and that’s why we want to offer real help to hard-pressed families, with their cost of living rising in these difficult times.

“It doesn’t detract from our need to identify significant ongoing savings and to increase revenues wherever we can, and with the continued and valuable help from officers, we strive to achieve this on a continuing basis.”

Among the plans the council hopes will save money is the community toilet scheme, which sees private companies, like cafes and community centres, open their doors to the public.

He and deputy leader Cllr Elizabeth Bowley said the council was committed to “maintain quality and effective front line services”.