6% council tax rise in Peterborough approved after voting 'farce'

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A six per cent council tax rise and increased charges for collecting garden waste have been voted through by cash-strapped Peterborough City Council.

The measures were passed at around 11pm last night by the Conservative-run authority as it tackles an overall deficit of £24 million following substantial government cuts.

However, opposition Labour and Liberal Democrats complained that voting was a "farce" after problems with the electronic voting system forced a second vote on two amendments put forward by the Labour group.

One of those amendments - a £30,000 cut to the council's communications budget - had been approved by but was overturned on the second (non-electronic) vote, prompting anger from the opposition benches with councillors soon taking to Twitter to suggest that they were being forced to vote again to get a different outcome.

The council's legal officer, though, was adamant that the re-votes were needed due to a problem with the electronic system which meant some votes had not been recorded first time around.

The evening also saw the cabinet announce it was removing proposals to charge residents £25 to replace bins which had been lost or stolen.

Council leader Cllr John Holdich with a copy of the budget

Council leader Cllr John Holdich with a copy of the budget

The loss of income from removing that charge will now be made up by using part of the council's reserves.

Although most of the Labour amendments failed, two ended up being approved. There were to invest 40,000 to deliver/test verge parking measures as well as a promise to consider the results of a parking review in future budget proposals.

Budget measures from the original Conservative proposals which were passed included:

. A six per cent council tax rise from April - three per cent of which is ringfenced for adult social care

. An £18,000 saving from no longer running Bretton Water Park, which will now be run by Vivacity

. Increasing the £39 annual charge to have garden waste collected in a brown bin to £45

. Limiting the amount of DIY waste that can be taken to the Household Recycling Centre

. Closing the Travelchoice Centre kiosk in Queensgate Bus Station which provides travel information for bus, coach and train services, as well as walking and cycling options in Peterborough. Some tickets (including bus pass renewals) will be available from the Visitor Information Centre in Bridge Street and the service will continue online

. Removing floral displays by the Town Hall, at St John's church in Cathedral Square and at the Peterborough Crematorium, unless they are sponsored

. Making £1 million savings in the contract with Serco for IT support and with support for back office functions. The council is proposing to make the savings "by being more rigorous with the management" of the contract

. A reduction in the subsidy paid to Vivacity and an increase in income from its facilities. Vivacity provides arts, library, sport and healthy living services in Peterborough

. Councillors will no longer be given food and drink for attending evening meetings, and documents for meetings will no longer be printed.

The council had previously budgeted to increase council tax by five per cent, but this was put up after the Government allowed local authorities to increase council tax by six per cent, instead of five, without having to call a referendum.

The average council taxpayer (Band B) will now pay £1,015 in 2018/19 - £57.38 more a a year than what they paid in 2017/18.

Last night's vote concluded the setting of the 2018/19 budget after councillors had also approved a first set of budget proposals in December.

Further coverage on the budget will appear later on.

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