Tax rise to balance the books
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RESIDENTS across North Somerset may see their council tax bills increase this year
After two years of freezing council tax, North Somerset Council is contemplating raising it by between 1.5-2 per cent to balance the books for the next financial year.
With the authority dealing with reduced grant funding from central Government, the authority has been forced to readjust its saving targets.
The council has whittled down a funding gap of £4.736million, should its budget be approved on February 26, but still has to find £266,000 of savings by the end of the financial year.
One of the biggest decisions facing the council’s executive is whether to raise council tax by 1.5-2 per cent, which would raise up to £1.62million, or accept a Government grant of £916,000 to freeze council tax for the next year and bring forward the remaining £756,000 from the 2012/13 freeze grant.
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The youth service provision budget is among those hardest hit in the council’s cuts, with the figure set to reduce from £286,000 to a mere £25,000 over the next two years.
A review of adult social care packages and provision will save £300,000, while a reduction in street-cleaning expenditure and the scrapping of the authority’s budget for public conveniences will save a further £680,000.
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Executive member for finance Tony Lake said: “I think it continues a theme that has run through all of the budgets we have produced since 2007.
“We have found different ways of providing services without a significant impact on the actual services. It is something that is proving harder and harder to do, but we will continue to do so.”
The three opposition groups at the council have also presented their alternative budgets.
The Liberal Democrats would raise £900,000 by abolishing a two-month council tax free period for empty homes and £100,000 by transferring the ownership of car parks, as well as saving £25,000 by sacking a member of the executive.
Labour also wants to abolish the second home and empty home council tax discount, and would divert funds back into cut-threatened social services.
The independent group has proposed reducing major highways maintenance projects by £300,000, using extra funds for longer lasting repairs of potholes and flood damage, and reducing un-earmarked reserves by up to £1.41million
All three parties would reduce North Somerset Life magazine to a quarterly publication, saving £100,000 a year and raise council tax to bring in £1.6million.