Hyndburn’s council chief has hailed the borough’s “good financial management” after freezing its share of council tax for the seventh year in succession.
Coun Miles Parkinson said Hyndburn is one of “a handful of councils” to be able to maintain taxpayers’ bills at the same level for so many years - describing it as a “remarkable achievement”.
But his comments, made as the council set its budget for the next financial year, were attacked by Tories, who said the budget was "complacent" and showed a “lack of vision” for the town centre.
Council bosses approved £5m of improvements in the borough, including £2m from the capital budget for housing and town centre renewal projects, as well as improvements to parks and leisure activities.
They also confirmed £650,000 for a new cemetery for Rishton and Great Harwood and replacing cemetery cremators.
However, Hyndburn Leisure has seen its ongoing subsidy from the revenue budget scrapped, and will instead now receive a one-off capital grant of £150,000.
Coun Parkinson told the full council meeting Hyndburn was one of a few local authorities to keep council tax levels frozen “during the whole period of the recession”.
He added: “You will still be paying what you did in 2009/2010, as set against large reductions in government funding at the moment when we are facing increasing demand for the services we provide and costs continue to rise.”
However, Tory leader Coun Tony Dobson criticised the Labour group’s record.
He said: “We understand that there are reductions in expenditure.
“But there is a lack of ambition with the budget and the town centre. Our feeling is that the job is not being well done at all.”
Former Tory leader Coun Peter Britcliffe said the budget was "dull and complacent".
While Hyndburn’s council tax precept has been frozen again, taxpayers will still see a rise in their bills from April due to rate hikes by Lancashire County Council and the police. Band A households will pay at least £33 a year more in 2016/17, with higher band properties facing a larger hike.
Hyndburn council has also cut the maximum level of council tax support, which, combined with the other increases, will add at least £83 a year to bills for Hyndburn’s worst off working age residents. Altham residents will also face no separate increase after the parish council froze its precept.
Councillor Parkinson’s statement in full
Once again, this year and now for the seventh time in a row, it has been possible to set a Budget for all of the Council’s operations that will not require a council tax increase for Hyndburn council services. So, from April 2016, you will continue to only have to pay what you were paying back in 2009/10.
This is a remarkable achievement by the council, as government reductions in funding continue to put all councils under severe financial pressure and pressures on expenditure continue to rise as more people require help from council services in these difficult times and costs continue to rise through inflationary pressures.
We are now one of a handful of councils that by good financial management continue to be able to freeze our council tax. As well as freezing council tax increases again this year, we remain committed to protecting front-line services wherever we can and delivering improved value for money throughout all council services, but particularly in our back office functions and this has meant that the vast majority of the £870,000 of savings we have identified for 2016/17 are coming from non-public facing departments.
While we continue to face the challenge of less money from central government this year to help run our services and the prospect that in a few years’ time we will receive no funding from Government whatsoever, we remain committed to improving the whole local area.
This year we will be investing for the first time £600,000 into Rishton to help transform one of the key streets in the town and boost the regeneration of this whole area. We will also be continuing with our investment into West Accrington and the Woodnook area of Accrington.
In May 2016 we expect to see the new Bus Station open in the centre of Accrington and once that has happened we will develop our plans to boost Accrington Town Centre with the development of a public square around the Market Hall and Town Hall, which will be followed by investment into the local retail offer, with grants to shops and local business owners to develop the façade of their buildings and undertake other work to enhance their properties and the look and feel of the Town Centre along Blackburn Road.
Providing the right services to local people has never been more difficult given the financial constraints we face, however we remain committed to the idea of keeping council tax low and delivering the best possible local services to our community that the money we have can provide.
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