Stroud District Council freezing tax and increasing investment

First published in News Gazette Series: Photograph of the Author by , senior reporter covering Dursley, Cam, Wotton-under-Edge, Sharpness, Slimbridge, Berkeley, Coaley, Uley, North Nibley, Stinchcombe and Cambridge

STROUD District Council is freezing council tax for another year and pumping £2million worth of investment plans back into the district.

At the hotly-debated budget meeting on Thursday, January 24, councillors voted in the year's budget proposals to keep council tax the same and push forward with investment in the economy, housing and renewable energy.

£1.25million has been sidelined for the next two years to support businesses, create jobs and promote growth while £700,000 is to be used as a strategic employment reserve to explore economic regeneration opportunities.

The district council hopes to attract employers to the district and has put aside £100,000 to do so with a further £60,000 to be used for employment initiatives and apprenticeships.

Half a million pounds is to be put into carbon reduction, with £350,000 of that going towards building a hydroelectric power scheme next to the council offices at Ebley Mill, which is predicted to save £30,000 a year.

However, Conservative councillors attempted to derail the hydroelectric scheme through two different proposals.

Cllr Nigel Cooper (Con, Rodborough) suggested that because the council was able to retrieve money from Icelandic bank Glitnir, the £350,000 should go back to council tax payers, amounting to a ten pound rebate.

"Some councillors want to spend, spend, spend. In business when a company gets a windfall they sometimes pay some back to the shareholders that is in effect what I am proposing.

"I think the scheme is very risky, it is a lot of money to spend and I think the returns are questionable and the engineering questionable."

Cllr Debbie Young (Con, Chalford) proposed that the money should be spent on flood alleviation but both proposals were defeated by the rainbow coalition of Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Executive member for environment Cllr Simon Pickering (Green, Slade) called Cllr Young’s suggestion "financially insane".

"We appear to want to shut the door after the horse has bolted. It is not a one off issue, we need to invest in plans for managing climate change," he said.

"What the opportunity is here is to actually invest in something that brings in income for hundreds of years."

After the meeting, Stroud District Council leader Cllr Geoff Wheeler said against a backdrop of higher living costs and low wage increases, freezing council tax will help householders’ budgets.

"Sound financial management and the recovery of our Icelandic bank deposits means that we are in the fortunate position to be able to invest at a time when many other authorities are having to make major cuts to services."

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