Sunday, February 22, 2009

Poole Councillor blames Labour for council tax rise

Councillors exchanged sharp words but eventually passed the 2009/10 budget with a large council tax increase at last Thursday's full council meeting.

Council Leader Brian Leverett told the meeting that Poole is one of the worst funded authorities in the country and a council tax increase of 4.8% was essential. He criticised the Labour Government for the low funding it provides:

"Poole received only 29% of its funding from the Exchequer, the remaining 71% to be provided by the Town's Council Tax payers in 2008/09. In 2009/10 the position will go from bad to worse and we will receive only 28% from government forcing us to rely even more heavily on local taxpayers"

Liberal Democrat Cllr David Brown said it was important to consider the affordability of council services, increased funding for support services to those affected by the recession and that the council should consider deferring some expenditure.

"We're at the start of a recession which none of us have experienced in our lifetimes."

He proposed a series of amendments to the budget, which would have resulted in a 3.9% increase in council tax along with a smaller increase to the communications budget and a reduction in some members' allowances.

Rebel Conservative Cllr Carole Deas sat opposite the main group of Conservatives and said that in a difficult financial climate, residents would not be satisfied with a large council tax increase.

"Do you realise how much anger is out there in our borough?" she told the meeting.

Fellow rebel Cllr David Gillard agreed: "when you haven't got the money and times are hard, we've all got to show restraint."

Councillors Deas and Gillard were suspended from the Conservative council group for three months in November last year over clashes with group leadership.

Although the Liberal Democrats amendments were rejected, Cllr Brown said he proposed the amendments to support "the people who live from hand to mouth and struggle to pay their bills."

Council Leader Brian Leverett concluded the budget debate on the subject of the 4.8% increase:
"Regrettably, it is the lowest level we can set council tax at."

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