Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Conservatives freeze Taunton Deane council tax bills

SOME good news at last for the Deane's council tax payers after the doom of gloom of the recession setting in.
Your council tax bill from the Deane council has been frozen this year and there will be no increase in it.
You can thank the Conservatives for this achievement, even though we are only the opposition group.
Our group leader, Councillor John Williams, together with our shadow executive members produced an alternative budget to the one which the Lib Dems put forward.
While the Lib Dems tried to claim they were going to have the lowest increase in Somerset at 2.9 per cent - later revised down to 2.7 per cent when they discovered it was not the lowest – the Conservatives produced a budget which showed no increase at all.
So, as we find happens quite often, the Lib Dems quickly plagiarised the Conservative budget and adopted the innovative measures we proposed for raising additional funds to pay for services.
Then, they agreed a budget which showed no increase in the Deane’s share of the council tax precept.
Unfortunately, you may not notice it as the County Council, which is also run by the Lib Dems, have continued to put up their council tax precept, and so have the Police.
In fact, the County Hall Lib Dems have more than DOUBLED your council tax on their watch, while you now pay more council tax to the Police than you do to the Deane council.
Despite the Deane’s Lib Dems taking all the best bits of the Conservative budget, we were not able in principal to support the budget as they presented it on two important areas of difference between us.
These were the so-called ‘free swimming’, where, as we know, the Government will only fund it for two years and after that time we are not going to have the money to continue and will be faced with taking away from people something that will undoubtedly be popular with them.
There are in any case already discounts in place for the elderly to be able to swim at little cost, and there will be a lot of restrictions on when youngsters under 16 years old are able to swim, so the real benefit for the Deane’s swimmers is only slight.
The other difference was on plastic and cardboard recycling, where Conservatives were setting out the real situation and biting the bullet for the greater good of the community.
While the Lib Dems were making very blurred promises to introduce it some time or other over the next two years, we were saying that given the bottom falling out of the market and given the fact the council has little money, it would be better to delay it until next year when the financial situation would hopefully be better.
Another achievement by the Conservatives at last night's budget meeting was to reduce the size of the council house rent increase which the Lib Dems tried to impose on tenants.
The rent increase was cut from the Lib Dems' near-seven per cent rise to 6.2 per cent.
It was still a large increase but at least we have managed to save tenants some money.

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