Last night was the ‘Budget Council’ meeting at Bury Town Hall, where councillors set the Council’s budget for 2019-20, as well as the Council Tax rate residents will pay.
The proposals from the ruling Labour Group were agreed. These include:
– Council Tax rise of 4.4%. The maximum rise allowed by Government without a referendum is 3%, so this is made up of 2.94% rise by Bury, and then on top of that are higher than inflation rises by Greater Manchester Police £24 a year for a Band D property and a more than doubling Greater Manchester Mayor’s tax from £8 to £17, for a Band D property.
– The Council has used some of it’s previous reserves – £5 million – to make the budget balance this year. This is perfectly legal, but obviously they can only be used once – so they are already creating a problem for 2020-21 when additional cuts of £5 million will need to be found.
– Money remains very tight and significant savings need to be made. Two that stood out for us is a reduction in the amount available for road repairs of £600,000 and a reduction in the amount spent on home care visits for older people who need this support of £1.4 million.
– The Council has increased the amount of Council Tax that must be paid on an empty property to double the normal rate.
– Using this extra income to borrow more there is some money for some new things by borrowing about £4.5 million . This includes £1 million to refurbish Bury Market and money to take forwards proposals in Prestwich, Radcliffe and Whitefield town centres (the money to do the studies, not the money to build anything).
What did the Liberal Democrats do?
We didn’t support the budget, there are some good things, but in general we couldn’t support a budget that was cutting road repairs and home care visits and only balanced by using reserves.
We made an alternative proposal which included:
– More money for road repairs (£3.6 million)
– More money to tackle congestion and ‘rat runs’, and money to tackle air pollution outside of schools (No-idling zones) (£0.5 million)
– More money to address mental health concerns in schools and to tackle fly-tipping (£0.6 million over three years).
The proposal was affordable by reducing management costs by just two posts.
Regrettably Labour Councillors voted agains these proposals.
New Council Tax Rates (from 1 April)
Band A – £1217.44
Band B – £1420.35
Band C – £1623.26
Band D – £1826.19
Band E – £2232.00
Band F – £2637.80
Band G – £3043.63
Band H – £3652.35