Councillors approve freeze of council tax in North East Lincolnshire
COUNCIL tax in North East Lincolnshire has been frozen for a fourth successive year.
Councillors last night approved the zero per cent increase as they voted 24 to 13 to adopt the authority's 2013-14 budget.
The budget, which will see the council make savings of £14-million next year, was unanimously backed by members of the ruling Labour group.
However, it was opposed by both the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups amid concerns at the ruling party's proposal to fund last-minute amendments by dipping into the council's reserves.
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The sole UKIP councillor, Ron Shepherd, also voted against.
As previously reported in the Telegraph, the Labour administration unveiled a series of changes to the budget earlier this week, including:
Deferring a planned increase in charges for meals on wheels for two years – at a cost of £68,000.
Deferring an increase in taxi licensing fees – £12,000; and deferring the introduction of new-style taxi plates – £5,000.
Making further investment in promoting the area as a tourist destination, with £100,000 for events and £75,000 for marketing.
Scrapping the proposed transfer of half of one full-time Trading Standards officer into the licensing department, and funding a fixed-term post in licensing at a cost of £7,000.
Spending £30,000 on hosting the Britain In Bloom awards ceremony in Cleethorpes.
The changes will be funded by cutting ward funding in each of the 15 wards by £2,000, and by using £267,000 from reserves.
Council leader Chris Shaw said: "This budget shows the support that this
administration will give to the vulnerable and to business."
He added that taking £267,000 out of reserves was a "prudent use of funding".
However, leader of the Conservative group Keith Brookes said the council was on a "slippery slope" by spending so much of its reserves to prop up the budget and warned that it would "come back to bite when the money runs out".
And leader of the Liberal Democrat group, Andrew De Freitas, described proposals to work with a private company to clamp down on dog fouling and littering as "nonsense".
Both expressed concern that Labour had been able to make last-minute amendments without them going before the scrutiny panels.
Councillor Brookes said: "There is a lack of detail in the budget on many issues and also delegation given to Councillor Shaw and officers to make decisions at a later date.
"Questions that have been given to officers have not been answered and it leaves us without the information needed."
The freeze means the charge for a band D property will remain £1,246.87. However, this does not include the precepts for police, fire and parish councils.
The total bill for each parish in the borough will be published in tomorrow's Grimsby Telegraph.