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UPDATED: Labour urged to take Government's cash and freeze Wirral council tax
WIRRAL’S ruling Labour group is being urged to access a Government grant provided to freeze council tax.
The demand comes from Tory leader Cllr Jeff Green, who says not to do so “would be heaping misery on misery” for hard-pressed households.
Labour’s leader said Cllr Green “has got a real cheek” and pointed the finger at Government cash cuts as being the principal cause of any misery.
Councillor Green said: “Last year, this money was sent back to Government at the cost to every council tax-payer in Wirral.
“To do this again would be heaping misery on misery for our residents.
“The cost of living for an average family in Wirral has gone up by an extra £295.51 per year due to Labour approved, locally-determined measures.
“Increases in council tax, car parking and ERIC charges, coupled with the removal of free parking after 3pm and the introduction of the ‘brown bin tax’ have resulted in families paying a massive 624% more for these services since the last local Conservative budget.”
He continued: “Councillor Davies can’t have it both ways; he can’t criticise the Government for not giving Wirral enough money then refuse £1.3m from them this year and last.
“It’s time for the Labour administration to do the right thing for hardworking Wirral families - accept the Government’s money and freeze their council tax.”
Council leader Cllr Phil Davies hit back: “Jeff Green has got a real cheek to criticise my administration over the budget.
“The fact is that his Tory-led Government has cut Wirral Council’s budget by more than £120m since 2010.
“This has forced us to make some difficult decisions on savings. It cannot be fair that Wirral has lost £152 per person compared to just £2 per head in wealthy North Dorset.”
Councillor Davies said the central grant to freeze council tax had not been accepted last year because the Government failed to include it in Wirral’s base budget calculations.
“Therefore it would have created a huge hole in our budget, which could only be filled by even more cuts,” he said.
“It was for this reason that many authorities, including Tory-controlled councils such as Cheshire West and Cheshire, did not accept this funding.
“I would therefore call on the Government to include any funding for freezing council tax in our base budget.
“Finally, we simply do not know what the rules will be next year on both council tax capping and any freeze grant, because the Government has not announced this key information.
“This is unacceptable as local authorities will be setting their budgets in the next few weeks.
“I call on Jeff Green to tell the Local Government Minister to get his act together and make these announcements as a matter of urgency.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Phil Gilchrist said: "Cllr Davies often likes to cite North Dorset - a rural council with a budget the fraction of ours.
"Their net budget is less that the amount we support or subsidise our sports and leisure centres from our taxes.
"A better comparison could be made with Oldham, a Labour-run council. They promised weeks ago to do their bit to help hard-working families and freeze their share of the tax.
"Like us, they are an urban council serving a deprived area. They too know that Labour’s Shadow Chancellor has said they won’t be able to reverse all the recent spending cuts.
"There is still much to be done to put Wirral on a sounder footing."
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