WIRRAL council last night approved a 4.4% increase in council tax.
The Labour-Lib Dem budget will see a band A property’s bill rise to £959 a year. Labour leader Steve Foulkes insisted it had been a difficult year, but outlined a number of measures which he said would help. Among those was a council tax freeze for those over 75 years of age and help for local businesses, including a fund to ensure they are paid promptly, as well as an extra £690,000 for child protection in the wake of reports on the Baby
Cllr Foulkes also defended plans which will see the council step in to help homebuyers affected by the credit crunch get onto the property ladder. He insisted a Tory budget amendment would see the authority begin the next year with a £9m hole in its budget. And he said the rise was partly due to changes made to the controversial Strategic Asset Review (SAR).
Cllr Foulkes said: “The council tax is 4.4% because people got what they campaigned for - it would have been 3.8%.
“Members of the public understand there is a difference between taking control and acting responsibly and the recklessness of the opposition.”
He insisted the Tories’ budget was “smoke and mirrors” and electioneering.
During a debate at Wallasey town hall, Lib Dem leader Cllr Holbrook also said the Conservatives’ alternative budget plans for a 2.5% council rise, which would also abandon the SAR, would leave the council facing financial ruin.
But Conservative leader Jeff Green warned the Labour budget would result in the “obliteration of libraries and community centres”.
Cllr Green accused Labour and the Lib Dems of cynicism and using a year without local elections to press ahead with the SAR, which will see 11 libraries close and other culture facilities transferred into community ownership.
He renewed the Conservatives’ pledge to re- open any facilities closed by the current administration should they take control of the council.
In a surprise move after their own amendment was defeated by united Labour and Lib Dem the Conservatives backed five rebel Lib Dems over Cllr Phil Gilchrist’s amendment, which recommended retaining the 11 libraries facing closure. THE ECHO