Rutland County Council proposes fifth year of tax freeze

Rutland County Council offices in Oakham
Rutland County Council offices in Oakham

Rutland County Council is proposing to freeze council tax for residents for a fifth consecutive year as part of its annual budget for the coming financial year.

Sound financial management in the last 12 months has allowed the cabinet to propose freezing the council tax rate once again, meaning it will cost £1,430.51 for a band D property.

On Tuesday last week Rutland County Council’s cabinet agreed the draft annual budget, amounting to £33.275m for 2015/16, which proposes to make £786,00 of savings but will not have an impact on frontline services.

Council leader Roger Begy (Con) said: “While the economy in Rutland is continuing to improve, times are still tough for many of our residents and we have the financial strength built up over the last 12 years to accommodate this freeze.

“This is something that cabinet has had to consider very carefully. Like every council around us, we need to bring our budget into balance by at least 2019/2020. Much work has already been done on this, especially with the People First Review last summer.

“Our prudent financial management in previous years means we can develop our services without resorting to some of the emergency measures proposed by other authorities.”

The People First Review aims to make savings of between £1.5m and £2m, starting in 2015/16 and has already achieved some early savings.

As part of that review the Meals on Wheels service, which has seen declining use, will end in April this year, giving the council a saving of £23,700.

The day care services, run in partnership with Age UK, will reduce from five days to two will also save a predicted £78,600 in 2015/16.

The council has also saved £57,000 by retendering its home to school transport scheme.

The council says its finances are in such a good position at the moment that it is proposing to spend £150,000 over the next two years to ensure the county’s fire services remains at their current level.

Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service has consulted on plans to remove a fire engine from the Oakham station in a cost cutting measure brought on by Government cuts, which means the emergency service faces a £7.5m shortfall over the next five years.

The council proposes to give £75,000 of financial support to the fire service for the next two years. That works out as about £5 per household.

The council is now consulting with the county’s residents on its proposed budget with a direct question asking whether people support the additional funding for the fire service and the tax freeze.

If supported by the community and the fire service, the funding would be provided on the condition that Rutland retains both its fire stations, in Oakham and Uppingham, and the current number of appliances, staffed by one full-time and two retained crews.

The fire service said it would consider the proposal if a formal approach was made.

Deputy council leader Terry King (Con), the porfolio holder for finance, said despite the positive outlook, the future remained uncertain.

But he said: “Rutland is now better placed than many councils to deal with the pressures.”

To ensure its stability moving forward the council proposes to increase the money in its reserves from £2m to £3m.

The public consultation on the budget runs until January 28.

Ahead of this, councillors and directors will be available to talk to at Oakham Market Place from, 10am to midday on Wednesday, and Uppingham Market Place from 10am to midday on Saturday next week. There will also be a stand at Uppingham’s Age Concern charity shop in High Street East from 10am to midday on Saturday next week.

A final decision on the budget will be taken by the full council on February 23.

To take part in the consultation visit www.rutland.gov.uk

l A survey by the Leicestershire and Rutland Police and Crime Commissioner’s office has revealed that more than half of people responding would be willing to face a 2 per cent increase in the police’s portion of the council tax.

A total of 839 people responded to the survey by Sir Clive Loader’s office and 56 per cent said they would pay an extra 2 per cent. A further 15 per cent of people said they would support a 1.5 per cent increase.