Saturday, February 8, 2014
The leader of Huntingdonshire District Council says the authority represents “incredibly good value” for the services it provides.
Tory Councillor Jason Ablewhite was talking ahead of next Thursday’s (February 13) cabinet meeting when senior HDC members will be asked to approve no increase in its portion of Council Tax.
“It’s better this year to take a freeze and take into consideration, that over the winter there has been a lot of talk about the cost of living,” he said. “People across Huntingdonshire are feeling the pinch and I don’t think we as a council want to add to that burden.”
If HDC agrees a freeze, the charges for a Band D household will remain at £133.18 a year. And if Cambridgeshire County Council follows its proposal of a 1.99 per cent rise, once payments to the police and crime commissioner and fire authority have been taken into account, Band D bills will be £1,500.95, a year, with town or parish precepts on top of that.
The Government has offered local authorities an incentive not to raise charges, a payment equalling the equivalent of a one per cent increase in Council Tax for two years.
Cllr Ablewhite, who stressed HDC’s charges remain among the lowest in the country, continued: “Next year we are looking at another freeze. Then we’re assuming two per cent (rise) after that, which is very small.”
HDC has had to make huge cuts after losing a quarter of its central Government grant for 2014/15, the equivalent of £1.5million. It still has to wipe £2.1m from its budget by 2018/19 and has been working on its Facing the Future plan, which has mainly been discussed behind closed doors.
The council received good news in December when the Government confirmed New Homes Bonus payments, the reward councils receive for supporting the construction of housing, would be paid to local authorities rather than Local Enterprise Partnerships.
Under Facing the Future, more than 460 potential savings or cuts are still being researched.
HDC is continuing to look at sharing services with other organisations. “I’m having more and more talks about how we can collectively help each other in local government,” said Cllr Ablewhite. “Shared services with South Cambs or Cambridge City – we could provide the same services at reduced cost.”
Councillor Jonathan Gray, cabinet member for resources, added: “I am confident that through the rigorous review programme we are undertaking, combined with effective budgetary management, residents will continue receive the best package of services that we can afford.
“There will inevitably need to be some service cuts in the coming years, but we will consult the community to ensure that residents have their say.”