The Labour party have announced that they will be seeking a Council Tax freeze at the Council’s Budget meeting, following calls from the Liberal Democrats to introduce a freeze over a month ago.
The Labour Executive on Stevenage Borough Council have recommended to the meeting of the Full Council on Wednesday 25th February, that a Council Tax freeze be introduced for the Council budget 15/16.
However, this only comes after the Stevenage Liberal Democrats called for the introduction of the Council Tax Freeze over a month ago.
The suggestion of a freeze in the Council Tax was first proposed by Robin Parker at the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 21st January because the Labour Executive were recommending a 1.9% Council Tax increase. At this meeting both the Labour and Conservative Councillors refused to back Cllr Parker’s recommendations for a Freeze in Council Tax, yet now the Labour Executive have done a major u-turn and decided to recommend a freeze despite their earlier recommendation to raise Council Tax by 1.9%.
The Coalition government has announced (as in previous recent years) that if local councils freeze their council tax this year then they will receive extra central government grant equivalent to a 1% increase in council tax. Therefore, the maximum advantage to SBC of a rise in council tax would be only 0.99%.
Cllr. Parker said that each year, for several years, the Executive has recommended an increase, which is then suddenly reduced to zero on Budget night, by the majority Labour group, in order to grab ‘surprise’ headlines and to try and demonstrate how well they had done.
He said “The fact is that it would cost only about £50,000 to keep the SBC share of the council tax level. As the papers for the meeting make clear, this could be done by making a smaller contribution to SBC’s balances in 15/16. The papers also make clear that SBC’s balances are reasonably healthy at present.”
“So I’m pleased that the Labour Party have now changed their mind and taking up my suggestion that they should accept the Government assistance available and freeze the Council Tax”.