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Council slashes tax rise by six per cent

HYNDBURN Council has announced its share of the annual council tax rise will be just 3.9 per cent - far less than the whopping 10 per cent it predicted last week.

HYNDBURN Council has announced its share of the annual council tax rise will be just 3.9 per cent - far less than the whopping 10 per cent it predicted last week.

In a huge U-turn, council leader Peter Britcliffe said savings of around £350,000 had been found over the past few days, reducing the required level of increase by more than six per cent.

And he pledged the council would "never again" get itself into the cash crisis that sparked the high rise prediction.

When demands from Lancashire County Council, the police and the fire service are taken into account, the rise will account to an overall jump of 4.92 per cent from last year, rather than the expected 5.8 per cent.

Hyndburn's cuts were made possible through several cost-saving measures, including:

  • A £170,000 reduction in the council's insurance premium following tough negotiations.
  • Savings of £125,000 through Hyndburn FIRST and £60,000 through the council's "right to buy" scheme.
  • Cutting back in tourism, art activities, entertainment and festivals, including a reduced subscription to Mid- Pennine Arts and the withdrawal of subscriptions to the North West Tourist Board.
  • Hiving off the management of Accrington Town Hall and Oswaldtwistle Civic Theatre, currently run by the council, to the Leisure in Hyndburn Trust.

Members of the opposition Labour group were firmly opposed to these last two measures. They accused the Tories of "selling off" vital parts of Accrington and Oswaldtwistle.

And deputy Labour leader Councillor David Myles said: "We are always talking about the need to attract tourists to the borough, yet you have cut subscriptions to the North West Tourist Board and Mid-Pennine Arts. These are very good value for money, as for each pound we spend we get four or five spent back in the borough through outside funding."

Labour put forward an alternative plan, proposing a four per cent increase in council tax, but allowing the council to maintain management of the Town Hall and Civic Theatre, as well as funding for the arts. But it lost the vote, 19 to 15.

Councillor Britcliffe promised more money for area councils in the next financial year and the setting aside of £26,000 for a Cabinet action fund. He thanked everybody involved in the budget process for all their hard work, but warned from now on there would be a "zero tolerance" approach to poor financial management.

He added: "While our positive cross-party approach to managing the crisis has enabled us to turn a palpable and inexcusable weakness into an area of strength, we must never allow this situation to develop again."

"From now on there will be a new and tougher regime of financial monitoring brought in to make certain that we control and spend local taxpayers' money properly and wisely."

Under the new budget, the council tax will be £839 for a band A home, £979 band B, £1,119 band C, £1,259 band D, £1,538 band E, £1,818 band F, £2,098 band G, and £2,517 band H.


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