Council should have cut more to avoid tax rise, says top Tory
A 1.55% council tax increase in Derby could have been avoided if there was a "political will to do so", the leader of the city's Tory opposition has claimed.
Councillor Philip Hickson made the comment after the authority set its budget and council tax for 2013-14 on Wednesday night.
The budget is subject to the Government confirming this month how much grant cash it will give to the city council.
But the council tax increase is unlikely to change before it and the budget are finally approved in March.
The change will mean that, from April 1, the council tax charge levied by the city council for Band D properties will rise from £1,127.21 to £1,144.63.
City council tax in Derby has been frozen in the past two years, with the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition – which used to run the council – accepting a Government grant to help it do this.
This year, the authority's Labour leadership has decided not to freeze council tax and so rejected the extra grant.
Mr Bayliss said this was because the cash, effectively £600,000 in each of the next two years, would only have been enough to cover what a 1% council tax rise would achieve.
But Mr Hickson said that the grant should have been accepted and the council should have looked at other ways of achieving the extra savings it would have needed to make by 2015.
Mr Hickson said: "We could have a third year of no increase in council tax if there was a political will to do so.
"While that is in place, we would have had to make the council more efficient, streamlining it, using new technology, so that we get back on an even keel when the funding comes to an end."
But Mr Bayliss said accepting the council tax freeze grant was not "a sustainable way of financing local Government long-term".
The Government has said councils can increase their council tax by up to 1.99% without triggering a local referendum.
Mr Bayliss said the grant Whitehall was offering to freeze the tax was not enough.
He said: "They are only going to give us the equivalent of 1%over the next two years and that's not enough.
"We'd always be behind the game and, in two years, we'd have to make up the deficit by, for example, cutting services or increasing council tax."
Yesterday, the county's police and crime panel, which oversees the work of the new Derbyshire police and crime commissioner, Alan Charles, also approved his proposed council tax rise of 1.96%.
This will mean council tax charges from the police will increase from £163.74 to £166.95 for Band D properties.
Mr Charles wants the money to maintain resources and police officer posts which he says are crucial to protecting the public.
The final component of council tax, for the Derbyshire Fire Authority, has not yet been announced.
Wednesday night's budget-setting fixed the city council's savings targets for 2013-14 at £20.1 million and at £23.3 million for 2014-15.
An estimated £18.8 million of savings for 2015-16 makes up the remainder of the £62.2 million savings the city council needs to make over three years.