SOUTH Gloucestershire Council’s three political parties have agreed a Council Tax freeze for the fourth year running.
The hung council unanimously agreed to keep levies unchanged for 2014/15, meaning a Band D property precept will remain at £1,245.20 per year. But further savings are needed and the authority has warned of 'changes to services' to reduce its expenditure.
Councillors last night set a budget of £190.7million and councillors agreed to a further tax freeze in 2015/16, followed by a two per cent increase in 2016/17.
At a full council meeting on Wednesday (February 19) , Liberal Democrat party leader Cllr Ruth Davis (Yate) said the budget protected youth services, localised area forum funding and free car parking across South Gloucestershire.
"None of us went into local government to dismantle it,” she said.
"In an area as diverse as South Gloucestershire, local decision making is vital. What is needed in Kingswood is not the same as what's needed in Thornbury or Marshfield.”
She added: “This budget was put together in very difficult circumstances.
"None of us went into local government to decide which bits of it to cut. The decisions will be made by the committees, in public, democratically and transparently. This council belongs to the residents of South Glos, not us, and this budget shows that we are here to serve them."
Conservative party leader Cllr John Calway (Longwell Green) said the Council Tax freeze would save the average local household £350 over the four years.
“We have also ruled out the introduction of charging to use council car parks because this protects local households who are struggling with the high cost of living,” he said.
“And there is also funding leftover to protect the services that residents tell us are most important to them, including services which help residents feel safe and be safe, services which keep our streets clean and services which support our local young people.
“Our group is also pleased to have got agreement on our proposals for additional funding to support local voluntary groups, change the council’s controversial part-night lighting policy and accelerate plans to expand leisure centres at Bradley Stoke and Longwell Green.”
The council said it was able to freeze tax for a fourth year due to its ongoing savings programme, which will have delivered savings of £43million by 2014/15. The cost of the freeze will also be partially offset by a one per cent central government grant.
Last week we also revealed that the authority had collected an extra £4.3million in Council Tax which will now be shared out amongst the council (£3.69million), police (£0.47million) and fire service (£0.18million).
But the council has warned of further cuts as it embarks on a new Council Savings Programme (CSP), which will begin in 2014/15. It needs to make additional savings of £36million by 2019/20.
A spokesman said: “This level of savings will require significant changes to services in the coming years as the role of the council evolves to meet anticipated reductions in its resources.”
The council held public consultation roadshows and an online survey which resulted in more than 2,300 responses before the budget was set.