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Council tax set to rise across Stockton borough despite last ditch effort to stop it
A LAST ditch attempt to force a council to its freeze council tax has failed.
Conservative group leader on Stockton Borough Council Ken Lupton opposed the 1.9 per cent rise and tried to persuade the council to accept a one-off Government grant and further dip into its reserves.
However, Bob Cook, Labour leader of the council, said that that Coun Lupton’s proposal would mean another £1.2m would need to be found on top of the £17.8m savings that must be found by 2016.
Coun Cook said accepting the Tory plan would, in the end, cost even more jobs and cuts to vital services.
However, in an official amendment proposed at a meeting of the full council, Coun Lupton said accepting the Government grant of about £730,000 and taking an extra £423,000 from reserves would give ordinary council-tax payers a break this year.
But the amendment was defeated.
Coun Lupton was supported by James Wharton, Conservative MP for Stockton South, who pointed out this is not the first time Stockton council had turned down the Government grant.
He said: “They are turning down government funding, instead choosing to take that money from local people who can ill afford it.
“Because they are insisting on increasing tax yet again people in Stockton will now be paying 5.5 per cent more than they would have if government funding had been accepted, this is money that is being taken out of our local economy and people’s pockets at the same time as government grants are being turned down.”
However, Coun Cook responded that the Government will slash its grant to the council by 58 per cent from 2010/11 to 2015/16.
During that period the authority will have had to save £51m from its budget, based on current predictions. The council has already had to fill a £3.8m gap in this year’s budget from savings and reserves.
He said: “We understand the difficulties facing people in these financial times and would prefer not to have to raise council tax, however given the scale of the cuts in government funding we face we simply cannot afford the additional £2million cost that the freeze would have over the next three years.
"We would just be storing up more problems for the future.”
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