I have attended the Special Meeting of Bury Council this evening when the Council Tax for next year was set. The increase for the Bury Council share will be 3.39%. Once the increases from the police and fire authorities are added the increase will be 3.75%.
The ruling Conservative Group could have tried to use creative accounting to keep the Council Tax increase artificially low but despite looming local elections and the pending General Election Councillors have rejected the temptation to have a budget full of gimmicks and populist measures.
The meeting this evening demonstrated how politics is all about competing choices. Both opposition groups proposed amendments which their supporters would approve of but in the end politics is all about difficult choices and inevitably it is the Party in control that has to take those decisions.
Last evening I attended the Special Meeting of Bury Council which was held to fix the Budget and hence the Council Tax for the year ahead. For the first time in 21 years the Conservative Budget proposals were passed. The result is that Bury’s share of our Council Tax bills will increase by 3.4%. This compares with rises of almost 5% for the last couple of years under Labour and an inflation rate ( according to the Retail Price Index ) of over 4%.
Pensioners not on benefit over 65 will receive a discount of 3.4%. Everyone who wishes will have the option to spread their Council Tax payments over 12 months each year rather than the usual 10 months which will especially help those who are struggling to make ends meet on limited incomes.
Incredibly, Labour proposed an alternative budget that would apparently have frozen the Council Tax with a zero increase. I am sure that the Council Tax payers of Bury will not be taken in by such a move. Labour never managed to freeze the Council Tax when in power for 21 years and indeed they usually increased it by as much as the Government allowed them to. Such a budget even if feasible for this year would mean enormous Council Tax increases and cuts in services in future years.
The Conservative budget is both prudent and sustainable and proves that Bury Council is safe in Conservative hands.