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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Council tax to rise - but cuts go on

COPELAND Council plans to increase residents’ council tax and award its employees a pay rise – while at the same time cutting a host of services.

The Whitehaven News can reveal that the authority proposes a 1.9 per cent increase from April in its share of council tax, in addition to a one per cent pay rise every year until 2017 for its employees in keeping with local authorities nationally.

The tax increase of 1.9 per cent is the most that an authority can impose without it going to a public referendum.

And the move has been criticised by members of the public, who say the council is charging higher rates for fewer services.

However, Copeland leader Elaine Woodburn says the council has no option but to increase rates due to the “morally irresponsible” cuts it faces. Further service cuts and job losses could also be on the cards.

The council was already faced with slashing a massive £2.6 million from its budget by 2015, and proposes to close venues (including Whitehaven’s Civic Hall and TIC) and withdraw services (including some doorstep recycling and grass cutting) as a result.

And after a grant it received from the government in December was £400,000 less than anticipated, Coun Woodburn admitted that any hope that some of these under-threat services could be saved appears to be lost.

She said: “We are now having to address an additional loss of income in the December settlement. We were one of the top 10 hardest hit in the country by this, and the government has not told us why.

“These cuts are morally irresponsible in a time when we are already attempting to save £2.6m and we will have to save even more next year. I want to invite Eric Pickles [secretary of state of communities and local government] to Copeland to explain why his government is determined to cause irrecoverable damage to Copeland through unprecedented cuts.”

And speaking when news of the low government grant was revealed, she said: “There may have been some flexibility but that has gone right out of the window now. I don’t want to prejudge anything as the final decisions will be taken in February, but I was hoping that some of the things that we proposed to cut could have been saved. But it now looks as though we will have no choice but to implement it all.”

The council tax a resident pays is divided between Cumbria County Council (around 75 per cent), Cumbria Police (around 13 per cent) and Copeland Borough Council (around 12 per cent).

A 1.9 per cent increase on Copeland’s share equates to £2.66 per year for a Band B property and £3.43 per year for a Band D. This increase will earn the council £76,000 a year.

Copeland has been offered a one per cent freeze by the government for the next two years. It accepted the offer of a freeze in 2012/13, however it is now felt that after the two-year period, this offer will end and the funding will drop out, leaving the council to find the balance from other sources.

Cumbria County Council and Cumbria Police are set to decide their budgets – and their council tax contributions – on February 14 and January 22 respectively.

The council says that the employee pay rise is being introduced to meet the expected national pay award.

As well as the proposed tax increase, the council also proposes to use £175,000 of unallocated funds to top up its budget and says it may have to bring some savings planned for 2014/15 forward.

Coun Woodburn added: “Our options for offsetting these losses are extremely limited and people need to realise that Copeland – as a place and as a council – will be significantly different soon.

“Our quality of life will be reduced because we have a government which does not recognise or care about need and deprivation.

“I make no apologies for this and I’m sure some will call this melodramatic, but the residents of Copeland need to understand that these cuts, coupled with benefit changes, could result in some families having to choose whether to pay the rent or put food on the table. How can this be? We live in the 21st century yet our budgets, services and support for residents are becoming Victorian.”

The council’s Executive met yesterday (Wednesday) to discuss the proposals and make recommendations. The final budget – and a decision on all the cuts – will be set on February 21.

Have your say

ITS ME AGAIN all councils give money to their local sports wrlfc being one of many.isnt that long ago town were bailed out by the council for world cup rugby!!!!hypocrite

Posted by billyboy on 15 January 2013 at 15:45

This is total hypocrisy from Woodburn and select other members of her council. This announcment is made two days before she attends a free night of food, drinks and entertainment paid for by Copeland GMB members . The local GMB representitives should hang their heads in shame for even inviting the very person who claimed it was 'obscene' that their members to receive a payrise to their annual freebie on 12th Jan, never mind wining, dining and entertaining at their members expense, while she justifies imposing increased council tax charges on many of their members?
But thats real Copeland socialism for you - Let the workers pay while the leftie elite enjoy the benefits, free of any charge.
Time for many to join an alternate union me thinks???

Posted by ted on 14 January 2013 at 20:57

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