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County set to freeze council tax for third year

Tuesday, January 22, 2013
10.06 AM

Council leader says now is not the time to clobber hard-pressed families and pensioners with higher bills.

Devon County Council is likely to freeze its council tax for a third year running.

Council leader John Hart has revealed he will be proposing a freeze at the authority’s budget meeting on February 21.

“Everywhere you look prices are going up,” said Mr Hart.

“But we have many pensioners living in Devon and many families trying to get by on lower incomes.

“I do not want Devon County Council to add to their burden.

“I believe we can deliver a budget that will maintain services while not asking our residents to pay a penny more.

“The Government would have allowed us to put up council tax by two per cent which would have brought in around £6 million.

“If we freeze council tax we will receive a grant of £3 million.

“Our judgement is that it is better to accept the £3 million, continue our programme of making efficiencies and saving money and not have to ask our Devon taxpayers to contribute a penny more for our services.

“We promised the people of Devon when we took over in 2009 that we would ensure they got value for money.

“We started cutting costs straight away. We froze most job recruitment, reduced our payroll without major redundancies and slashed bureaucracy and red tape.

“We did that whilst maintaining essential frontline services and becoming more efficient and businesslike.

“We’ve already been accused of freezing council tax because there’s an election in May.

“I would simply point out that we’ve frozen council tax in the previous two years as well and ask where the elections were in those years.

“We believe in setting our own house in order first and cutting costs where we can before asking our residents to dip into their own pockets.

“I would much rather have been leader of Devon County Council at a time when we could expand services and do more for our residents.

“But we have all got to play our part in getting the economy back on an even keel and we have to do as much as we can with the money that is available.”

Mr Hart completed a programme of 18 consultation meetings across Devon in the autumn.

More than 16,500 people responded to the consultation by attending meetings or making comments on the website.

Altogether, 76 per cent said they believed Devon County Council had done a good job in protecting services and limiting the impact of spending reductions.

“No one wants to see spending reductions but it is very heartening that over three quarters of those who responded thought we had done a good job in protecting services,” said Mr Hart.