Council Tax freeze in Ashfield district

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CASH-STRAPPED householders in Ashfield will not face a hike in their Council Tax bills this year after councillors voted to freeze it at last year’s level.

Ashfield district councillors met to rubber-stamp the budget for 2011/12 at a meeting last Tuesday.

They agreed not to raise their share of the tax, in line with many other authorities in the country, including Nottinghamshire County Council.

This means that residents living in a Band A property – apart from people living in Annesley and Felley and Selston – will pay £1,060.13 for the 2011/12 financial year, while someone living in a Band B property will pay £1,236.82.

But, while the budget was accepted by all parties in the council chamber, the Liberal Democrat group offered an alternative budget that included the elimination of the Lammas Renewal Fund, which they say would save £250,000 a year.

The fund was set up to deal with major repair works that the Lammas Leisure Centre in Sutton may need in the future – but the Liberal Democrats argued that adding this money to the reserves was not necessary while the centre was still new.

And instead of the freeze, the group proposed a 2.5 per cent reduction in the rate of Council Tax, which would have meant that someone living in a Band A home would pay £1,057.34 per year, while someone living in a Band B would pay £1,233.57.

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Austin Rathe said: “A Council Tax freeze would help the residents of this district, but a cut would help them more. This council has built up huge reserves by taxing the residents of this district. It is not our money – it’s theirs.”

But the Liberal Democrats’ amendments were rejected by Labour and the Independent-Conservative Alliance.

During a heated debate, Council leader John Knight said: “We have had several senior finance officers and independent auditors saying we need these reserves and they are prudent.”

And Independent councillor Gail Turner described the Liberal Democrat proposals as ‘pure electioneering’.

“This budget is good and sensible with no redundancies and no frontline services cut,” she said.

“We must be careful with our money because there are more Liberal Democrat-Conservative cuts on the way.”

Several amendments, including recruiting two additional community protection officers, reinstating councillors’ Community Initiative Fund and supporting community bonfire events were welcomed by all parties.

The move now paves the way for the return of the Sutton community bonfire, although there are no details on this at present.

Another amendment reduced the contribution to the Lammas Renewal Fund from £250,000 to £125,000.

The overall Council Tax freeze means that householders living in a Band A property will continue to pay Nottinghamshire County Council £795.45, Nottinghamshire Police Authority £106.74 and Nottinghamshire Fire Authority £46.46.