Opposition parties blame government for Peterborough council tax rise

Council leader John Holdich with budget EMN-160302-163914009
Council leader John Holdich with budget EMN-160302-163914009
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Reaction to the final Peterborough City Council budget proposals for 2016/17 has been fairly muted with group leaders from the various political parties proving sympathetic towards the ruling Conservative cabinet.

Opposition leaders have instead turned their ire on the government and the heavy cuts it has imposed on the council which has lost nearly 50 per cent of its grant in the past six years.

Councillor Mohammed Jamil, Labour group leader, was particularly scathing about the government cuts. He said: “This government is hell-bent on destroying local government and local services. Under the guise of austerity Peterborough City Council is being forced to increase charges for some of our services and to reduce and reorganise its services.

“We are at the stage when we will be considering losing front-line services for good in order to ensure that we have a balanced budget.”

Cllr Nick Sandford, Liberal Democrat group leader, hailed a £100,000 re-investment into bus services as a “Liberal Democrat winner” due to them having lobbied the cabinet on the issue for the past 12 months.

He also declared that parking charges and a four per cent rise council tax are “quite reasonable” in the current climate. He said: “Nobody wants to see council tax increase. The last few years the government has offered a subsidy to not increase council tax but that’s been withdrawn.

“The clear message from government is they want council tax to rise by two per cent for adult social care.”

Cllr John Okonkowski, UKIP group leader, also defended the decision to increase council tax.

He said: “We are not happy that it’s going up but at the end of the day you cannot do a lot about it. Unfortunately, central government cut funding to all councils. So we are doing the best we can.

“It’s a difficult situation but I’m sure the people of the city will understand what we have to do.”

Cllr John Fox, leader of the Werrington First group, said: “Under the financial circumstances brought upon us by government cuts to local authorities, this is in my opinion a reasonably balanced budget, bearing in mind in the first place that all political parties were part of the cross-party budget working group and have had their opportunity to voice their opinions.”

Cllr Chris Ash, leader of the Peterborough Independent Forum, also highlighted the cut from central government, but added: “With that in mind we need to be sure we can meet the demands without causing hardship and we need to be sure that the money we do have is spent carefully.

“The key is to avoid grand schemes that, though might look good, have little benefit.”

Councillor David Seaton, cabinet member for resources, said: “We are committed to ensuring that the services we deliver are improved rather than cut back. Through strong financial management, and taking difficult decisions early on, this is exactly what we have achieved for residents in this budget.

He added: “We are focused on achieving efficiency through innovation, generating income in a variety of ways, and driving growth in the city.”

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