District tax freeze to thaw Mansfield’s economy

MANSFIELD households will again see no rise in the district council’s slice of council tax bills after politicians confirmed a budget designed to protect family finances.

Mansfield District Council formally approved a second year of the freeze when it met to set its budget for 2012 to 2013.

Last week’s confirmation means the average ‘Band D’ home in the area will again pay £184.72 for the year.

Councillors also confirmed a controversial £25 optional charge for emptying brown garden waste bins and a u-turn on town car parks which brings back one-hour stay tickets.

The changes will come into force in April.

A £200,000 lump sum was also set aside to boost apprenticeship places in the district in an effort to tackle youth unemployment.

After the budget was passed, portfolio holder for resources Roger Sutcliffe said the hope was measures would “protect residents and businesses”.

Said Coun Sutcliffe: “Hard decisions have had to be made but we have endeavoured to give residents choice as to how they spend their money while encouraging them to shop in Mansfield.”

Although the main points of the budget were all voted through, some members clashed on the bin charges and tax freeze.

Coun Martin Lee, leader of the council’s Labour group, criticised the £25 brown bin fee and accused Independent members of failing to properly plan for the costs of the scheme. “We can’t let this go forward without commenting on the charge for brown bins,” he said.

“In real terms this is a council tax increase by the back door,” he said, claiming Coun Sutcliffe and independent Mayor Tony Egginton had shown a lack of “scrutiny and forethought”.

Coun Sutcliffe pointed to the fact the scheme will be extended by the charge to 12 months of the year rather than eight and said it was a “charge of choice” which allowed people to opt out. “I strongly object to the comments that it wasn’t properly costed - it was,” he added.

Labour members also backed the planned council tax freeze, which will see the authority get a £147,000 sweetener from the Government.

But some said they were backing the freeze with some concern as the Government grants will end next year, which could lead to a significant rise in district council tax in 2013 2014.

Coun Lee said the authority could end up being “boxed into a corner” by taking the incentive.

In a rare moment of peace, senior Labour members and Independents both reached complete agreement on the cash for apprenticeships, pushed by Labour and backed by Independents.

Councillors also agreed a number of efficiency and income generation measures to plug a £3.14 million gap in the council’s budget, caused by falling interest rates and income levels.

The total Council Tax for Mansfield district residents will be confirmed on 6th March when precepts for Nottinghamshire County Council, Nottinghamshire Police Authority, Nottinghamshire Fire Authority and Warsop Parish Council, for Warsop residents, are added to the total bill.