Council tax increased and spending slashed as Wyre Forest budget is set (From Kidderminster Shuttle)
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Council tax increased and spending slashed as Wyre Forest budget is set
COUNCIL tax for Wyre Forest residents will rise the first time in four years and £800,000 will be slashed from spending as 2014/15 budget plans were rubber stamped.
District councillors approved the budget as part of its three-year financial strategy - which also includes a freeze in members' allowances - and agreed the 1.94 per cent council tax precept increase at a meeting last night.
Proposals were passed at Wyre Forest House in an atmosphere which felt strangely restrained and was far less raucous than in previous years, suggesting the strain of funding cuts from central Government is providing little room for manoeuvre.
The approved budget will bring council spending down to £11.5 million and another million is likely to be chopped next year.
Council leader, Conservative John Campion, said the financial strategy served the community "the best we can with the resources we have".
Charges for car parking, cemetery and sports pitches will increase and disabled blue badge holders could be stripped of concessions at council-owned car parks.
Kidderminster Town Hall will be further utilised and empty rooms at the authority's Finepoint Way-based headquarters rented out in a bid to increase council income.
A controversial plan to offload benefit and revenue and Hub services to private company Civica has been scrapped after councillors were unable to make plans save the £200,000 hoped for.
Council staff will receive a three per cent pay rise over four years, rather than a 1.5 per cent increase each year, after terms and conditions were changed.
The Conservative administration's budget was passed by 31 votes to 11, supported by all Tory, Liberal and Independent Community and Health Concern members and opposed by the Labour and Independent councillors.
Labour members said there were parts of the budget they could support but would not back the package overall, criticising allowance freezes and staff pay changes.
Independent councillor Helen Dyke said she felt allowances could have been cut this year.
ICHC leader Graham Ballinger backed the budget after the administration agreed to review the council's leadership structure, which could result in changes to highly-paid senior management jobs at the organisation.
The tax increase, which will add £3.83 to the Wyre Forest portion of an average band D taxpayers' annual bill, was passed by 41 votes to one, with only Labour's Nigel Knowles voting against.
It comes after Worcestershire County Council, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Authority, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia and parish and town councils also agreed to increase their parts of the council tax bill by 1.9 per cent - the highest percentage that can be proposed without triggering a costly referendum.
All changes will come into force at the start of the new financial year from April 1.