Councillors vote to freeze council tax in Rutland

Rutland County Council offices in Oakham
Rutland County Council offices in Oakham
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Residents in Rutland will have their council tax frozen for the fourth year running despite the need for big savings to be made.

Rutland county councillors voted to freeze tax rates at a special meeting of the full council on Monday evening.

However, the authority has warned tough decisions need to be made as it aims to save £925,300 in 2014/15.

The council said it will focus on efficiency and effectiveness of services, continue negotiations on key contracts such as highways maintenance, as well as increase charges for services like planning advice.

Freezing council tax will result in a £208,000 one-off Government grant. This sum would be the equivalent to a rise of one per cent.

Speaking after the meeting, Rutland County Council leader Coun Roger Begy (Con) said: “I believe that this is a robust budget for this year and closely follows the proposals that we have discussed over the last year. It is vital that we do not think and plan just the next year.

“All councils face some tough decisions over the next few years as public sector funding continues to be squeezed. By financially planning ahead we will be able to plan our focus upon front line services and finding more efficient ways of delivering services.”

Councillors also voted to support the overall council budget of £32.786m for 2014/15, down from £33.415m in 2013/14.

The budget had already been considered by cabinet and scrutiny panels over the last few months.

A public consultation took place during January, including special meetings of the scrutiny panels, a business consultation meeting, as well as a survey on the council website. Out of those who responded to the consultation, 63 per cent agreed that the council should accept a council tax freeze.

Coun Begy added: “Councillors are subject to the pressures of everyday life just like any other resident.

“We also have to make decisions for the good of the county and I am confident that a council tax freeze this year was the right decision.

“There were no votes against the proposals by the councillors that attended the meeting.”

The three members of the Rutland Group of the UK Independence Party did not attend the meeting in protest over what they are calling “a lack of due process and adequate public consultation regarding the setting of the annual budget and therefore the setting of the council tax for the forth coming year.” They went on to say that “the lack of any detailed budget breakdown renders it impossible for most councillors to make an informed decision on behalf of their electorate”.

The group’s members are Coun Richard Gale, Coun David Richardson and Coun Nick Wainwright.

The three could face legal action for comments made on their website 4Rutland. In August last year councillors voted to financially support council officers looking to sue for defamation in their own name in any such case. The level of support has been estimated at £150,000.

A report by council monitoring officer Helen Edwards said the three councillors were accused of suggesting council officers were involved in fraud and corruption, suspect planning approvals, the misuse of public money and the squandering of millions of pounds of grant funding.

The three maintain they have done nothing wrong.