Friday 01 Feb-14 Feb 2013
COUNCIL TAX MAY RISE OR RESIDENTS LOSE VITAL SERVICES, SAYS OLDHAM COUNCIL
jim mcmahon oldham council Oldham Council will consider proposals to increase Council Tax by 3.5 per cent from April 1 this year. The Local Authority must deliver a balanced budget for 2013/4 and needs to find an estimated £38 million in savings by 2015.
Major reductions in funding from Central Government and the impact of other pressures mean savings totalling £100 million have already been made in the past four years. The new draft budget proposals go before the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Monday, January 28 - if approved they would see a first rise in Council Tax in three years. This would mean an estimated rise of 60p per week for residents in Band A properties (43 per cent of Borough households) and up to 90p a week for Band D homes. Councillor Abdul Jabbar, Cabinet Member for Finance, Human Resources and Strategic Partnerships, said raising the Tax wouldn’t be a decision taken lightly, “but we must balance the books and protect key frontline services for residents.” He pointed out that Council Tax has not increased for three years in Oldham but that a combination of inflation, reduced income (because of the state of the economy) and significant funding cuts from Government ‘means we are facing increasing costs’. “Despite all that these proposals are designed to protect frontline services. We are not alone in proposing to put Council Tax up but, unlike many other Local Authorities, you will note we have no ‘quick-fix’ plans to close local libraries, community centres or children’s centres, for example. “We’ve delivered huge efficiency savings in recent years and our financial management is now rated ‘top of the league’ by the Audit Commission.” He added: “That prudence will continue and we remain focussed on working to maximise our income sources, reduce debt and invest to stimulate economic growth and regeneration.” Jim McMahon, Oldham Council Leader, said: “We have found savings of £30 million already this year, however, the
additional £7.5 million of cuts from Government means we either start closing libraries and children’s centres or we look for balance and increase Council Tax. This is not ideal but it’s a better option than closing facilities that people in Oldham rely on.” The Lib Dems say the Council’s proposal to raise council tax by 3.5 per cent will come as a “bombshell to the borough’s residents”. They accuse the Labour Council of being “devious” in the way the increase “was slipped into the latest budget paper in a technical section dealing with grants from the government.” Previous papers, declare the Lib Dems, issued in confidence to senior members of opposition parties had suggested that some £2.3m of further savings options would balance next year’s budget. Cllr Lynne Thompson, Liberal Democrat finance spokesperson, said, “This is a shocking slap in the face for the borough’s residents. A council tax hike like this should be unthinkable without full consultation with the public. I have suspected they were thinking of a rise, but they have fluffed and changed the subject whenever I have challenged. How devious!” Following the Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, the budget proposals will next go before Cabinet on Monday, February 18. They then go before a Full Council budget meeting taking place on Wednesday, February 27 in the Council Chamber at 6pm. That meeting will also be broadcast live on the Oldham Council website at www.oldham.gov.uk and by Oldham Community Radio.
Northern economy to prosper from HS2 High speed rail will create jobs and boost the northern economy, say local authority leaders and businesses, as news was unveiled today (28 January) of the northern phase of the proposed £32bn HS2 high-speed rail network. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Manchester City Council and the Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, along with Manchester Airport and the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are unanimous in their support for High Speed 2 – the proposed high speed rail link from London and Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. The high speed line will include stops at Piccadilly in the city centre and Manchester Airport. As well as cutting journey times between Manchester, Birmingham and London, the line will also free up the conventional rail network for passengers and freight easing the traffic burden on motorways and boosting economic growth. Councillor Andrew Fender, Chair of Transport for Greater Manchester Committee, said: “High speed rail is good news for the economy – not just for Greater Manchester but also the wider North. “Today’s announcement isn’t just about faster trains. High speed rail will create up to 30,000 station-supported jobs in Manchester and help to drive productivity in the region, bridging the economic gap between the North and the South.” Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council, said: “We see high-speed rail as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the rail network [that] will unlock the economic potential of the North West and create much-needed jobs. “The UK is lamentably playing catch-up to our global competitors in our rail transport systems, but it is crucial that we close the gap. Without this link the North West – and Manchester – will be left stranded, unable to compete with the likes of Munich, Milan and Copenhagen who are already well ahead in the high-speed stakes.” Chancellor George Osborne speaking on BBC Breakfast (28 January) had much the
we can really start rivalling London for jobs and opportunities and bridge the economic divide. “HS2 has come none too soon - the truth is
same to say. Asked about the short term disadvantages of the rail link, including the huge disruption its construction would cause, he responded that it would be “the engine for growth in the north and the midlands of this country” not to mention vital for Britain to keep apace with global growth. He said investment in long term multi billion infrastructure projects was key and added: “If our predecessors hadn’t decided to build the railways in the Victorian times, or the motorways in the mid-20th century then we wouldn’t have those things today. “You’ve got to create those projects even though they take many years. Yes, they’re expensive, but they’re also an investment in the economy. “In fact, for too long, actually Britain has not undertaken these big projects because politicians like me sit on sofas like this and say it’s not going to help me in the next year or two,” he added. He said HS2 would help rebalance the economy. “Our country has become so unbalanced and for the last 15 years as a country we gambled on the City of London and its prosperity and look where that got us. This new government is determined to change that and make sure the economic geography is changed and businesses are connected and able to benefit from that.” Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin added: “This is the first railway to be built north of London for 120 years.” Mike Blackburn, Chair of the Greater Manchester LEP, said: “High speed rail will bring cities in the North and Midlands much closer together, so
that the North West has needed this new railway for decades.”