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Wirral poised to turn down 'one-off' grant that would freeze council tax
A fierce political row has erupted over Tory claims that Wirral Council’s ruling Labour group could be poised to reject a £1.3m government grant to allow a council tax freeze.
Tory group leader Jeff Green contended that such a move would be “a slap in the face” for Wirral’s tax payers and a demonstration that the Labour administration was only interested in its own internal issues – not the residents of Wirral.
Councillor Green acknowledged the Labour group’s hand would only be revealed when they put their budget proposals forward in March.
But he insisted: “This money is available and the public should know it is available.
"There is no reason for a council tax increase.
“The government have said that if the council wants to increase council tax by two percent there should be a referendum.
"I believe that the administration will seek to increase council tax and try to avoid a referendum.”
Council leader Phil Davies accused Cllr Green of being “disingenuous.”
He said: “We are considering whether it would be advantageous to accept the council tax grant from the government.
"It is a one-off. If you base the budget proposals on this money - it will only be paid for two years – the following years you must make more cuts because it is time limited.
"The money is not there in perpetuity.
“It is a short-term fix. We need to put our finances on a strong footing long-term. A two year contribution is not helpful in the long-term.”
A notice of motion on the issue will go before full council next Monday.
Councillor Green’s motion demands that residents must have a say before the administration “turns its back” on the government cash offer. It also calls for the administration to put any tax increase to residents in a referendum.
He said: “The government has provided this grant to Wirral to cover the gap between a 0% increase and a 2% increase.
"Before the administration send this money back to the government and impose a tax increase on Wirral residents, there should be a referendum so that the public know this money is being given back and it will have to come out of the budget.”
The council is preparing to slash £77m from spending during the next financial year.