Our mayor has announced a balanced budget and no increase in council tax for the coming financial year in line with her election pledge.
Prior to council tax levels being set, a committee, comprising councillors of all political persuasions, looks at all the options and makes recommendations.
They unanimously recommended a modest 1.99 per cent rise in council tax to the Mansfield part of the bill. On a band A property this would mean a rise of just £2.45 a year (yes, you read it right £2.45 a year) or 4.7 pence per week.
Despite the careful and lengthy deliberations of that cross-party committee, the MIF/UKIP mayor’s executive rejected their findings and decided instead to freeze council tax once again. On top of the freeze, Mansfield Council will lose £5million each year in Government grants and an additional £7m over four years due to the Government’s rent changes under welfare reform.
I would urge anyone with experience of reading and interpreting accounts to go online and look at all the figures for themselves. The picture is not as rosy as the mayor paints it and the financial outlook for the future is not good.
I believe the obsession of successive mayors with freezing council tax has resulted in cuts to services and charges being imposed for things that used to be free, such as brown bins. Sensible increases in council tax will not break the bank – only about a tenth of what we pay goes to Mansfield council anyway. The review of non-statutory services should have residents worried; councils do not have to have leisure centres, swimming baths or parks and open spaces – these are all non-statutory and can be shut or sold off tomorrow (witness Warsop).
One thing that helps to balance the budget though is the portfolio of properties the council has been and is buying – hotels and gyms in places like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Manchester. I can’t recall reading anything in the mayor’s or any Independent candidate’s election pledge about this. In my view it is stark evidence that they have run Mansfield and district down so much that it is no longer a good bet for anyone to invest in, not even the local authority.
Perhaps they didn’t want us to know that, rather than have faith and invest our money in our district, they would rather play real life Monopoly instead and buy up property elsewhere. Where next - Old Kent Road or Mayfair?