Council tax rise likely to be given green light

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526C439)
Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526C439)

A council tax rise of 1.95 per cent looks set to be agreed by the end of the month.

Kirklees Council Cabinet agreed the budget proposal on Tuesday, which will have to be agreed by full council on February 18.

Police, fire and parish precepts will be added at that meeting. Council house rents are also set to rise by 2.2 per cent.

Coun David Sheard, council leader, said: “In our budget consultation around 50 per cent of people supported a 2 per cent rise. If we didn’t do this now then we’ll need to look for another £6m of cuts in the budget as it’s accumulated.

“We are in a difficult position because of the government funding cut.”

The rise will generate an additional £2.7m income a year. If the authority had chosen to freeze council tax they would have benefitted from a 1.6m government grant. Other proposals that will be voted on later this month include stopping Dewsbury’s free town bus, closing loss-making markets such as Birstall and axing free school bus passes.

Kirklees Conservatives have slammed the budget. Their proposals include a three-year council tax freeze. Leader Robert Light said: “The Conservatives are proposing to freeze council tax, and keep our libraries, museums, and markets.” They are also suggesting cutting the size of the Cabinet in half – saving £61,000 – and having all-out elections every four years instead of every year.

“In short Conservatives will protect the universal services which all residents the borough receive and not tax our residents more,” Coun Light added.

Meanwhile, Kirklees Liberal Democrats have suggested going back to a council system that was in place more than 15 years ago. They say the council will save £72k per year from 2016/17 by agreeing to scrap the Cabinet, the Cabinet system and the council’s existing scrutiny arrangements.

In their place, they are proposing Kirklees re-introduces the committees system of decision making, which they were forced to abandon due to the Local Government Act in 2000. They say the system would be more representative, produce better council policy and encourage greater cooperation.

Leader Nicola Turner said: “According to officers, the council will have shrunk by approximately 40 per cent by 2018 and it is time for it to plan to cut its leadership bill accordingly.

“Councillors cannot be seen to sit in the council chamber making decisions about budget reductions affecting services and local people without trimming the fat ourselves.”