Kettering and East Northants agree to freeze council tax

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Councillors in Kettering and East Northants have approved their authorities’ budgets for 2014-15, each of which will see a council tax freeze.

Kettering’s budget also promises no cuts in voluntary sector grants and no front-line cuts, as part of the Conservative administration’s “triple zero” strategy.

Proposing the measures at a meeting of full council last night (Wednesday, February 27), Kettering Council’s finance portfolio holder Cllr Ian Jelley said: “Budgets don’t just happen, especially balanced budgets.

“In the last four years we as an authority have identified savings of £5.5 million.

“This budget is one to be proud of.”

He said a fourth successive year with council tax frozen equated to a real-terms reduction of 13.5 per cent over that period.

The administration has also outlined plans to reduce charges at council car parks across the borough as well as increasing the number of days in which parking will be free.

Councillors also voted down a Labour amendment to increase council tax by 1.99 per cent, the maximum allowed without triggering a local referendum.

The Labour group leader Cllr David Bishop said that rise would be just six pence a week per household, or less than a pint of beer a year.

A tax increase would go towards the extension of residents-only parking in Kettering, increasing the wages of all council staff to the national living wage and extra funding for the borough’s parishes and A6 towns.

Labour also pointed out the Conservative-controlled county council and police commissioner Adam Simmonds had each approved a council tax rise of 1.99 per cent, meaning bills will be rising by about £20 a year for the average household.

Seconding the Labour motion, Cllr Maggie Don said the council had to insulate itself against Government cuts, adding: “This modest increase would help to prevent the worst of what’s to come in future years.”

But Conservatives said they would not break their commitment ahead of the borough council election in 2011 not to increase council tax.

Meanwhile, East Northants Council also agreed last night to freeze its element of the council tax for the second year running.

It means the authority will charge the average household £123.65 a year, one of the lowest in the country. The equivalent figure for Kettering is £205.39.

The county council’s portion has been raised by about £20 to £1,048.57.

East Northants Council leader Steven North said: “Due to the hard work by staff and members, we are not using any reserves to balance the budget, and the proposed budget is lower than last years. We also hold a healthy earmarked reserve of over £5 million and we can still deliver community projects out of some of the New Homes Bonus.

“All councils face some tough decisions over the next few years as public sector funding continues to be squeezed. With good financial planning we will be able to focus on front line services and finding more efficient ways of delivering services.”