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Lib Dems hit out at delay in Craven District Council budget agreement
11:38am Thursday 21st February 2013 in News
A decision on whether to raise council tax has been put off until next week’s full meeting of Craven District Council.
The council’s policy committee had been expected to make a recommendation at its meeting last Tuesday.
But the committee, chaired by council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton, decided against making any indication and leaving it until Monday’s full council meeting.
Other areas of the budget were agreed by the committee and forwarded to the full council for approval.
Coun Knowles-Fitton has already indicated at a separate meeting that the council was very likely to increase its precept by just under two per cent – unlike North Yorkshire County Council, the police and the fire and rescue authority which are planning to impose a freeze.
The district council can either accept a £119,000 council tax freeze grant for 2013/14 from the government or increase its precept by up to two per cent. An increase of more than two per cent will mean the council having to hold a referendum.
Coun Paul English, leader of the Liberal Democrats, criticised the leading group at last week’s meeting for not indicating whether it intended to increase council tax or not.
He said it meant that his group would be left with very little time to come up with an alternative budget.
Coun Robert Heseltine added that a rise by Craven District Council would put it in the vast minority of local authorities to increase council tax.
“Is it fair to put council tax up in these times of great austerity?” he asked.
The council’s revenue budget for the year will be £6,369,000 – if approved by full council.
Cuts in government funding over the last three years have seen the council’s funding resources cut by £1.3 million.
A further reduction of £400,000 will have to be made in 2014/15 and it is estimated there will be further cuts of up to 20 per cent in the following two years.
After the meeting, Coun Knowles-Fitton said he was pleased the council was able to produce a balanced budget for the fourth year in a row.
“The council’s employees, partners and members have worked hard to make savings wherever possible and this is reflected in the general fund balance which is the healthiest it’s ever been.
“Despite further cuts to funding, we have been able to produce a robust budget to see us through this tough financial year. However, we are also looking ahead and are mindful that we will face further cuts in government funding for at least another three years.”