District freezes St Albans council tax through £1m savings

Cllr Alec Campbell

Cllr Alec Campbell - Credit: Archant

The district’s share of next year’s council tax is on target to be frozen again - but not without nearly £1 million of cost savings.

They include economies on members’ allowances, a two per cent increase in the cost of parking permits and investment in new pay and display machines in council car parks to prevent the loss of revenue when the existing machines are out of action.

St Albans council’s share of the overall council tax bill is 11.5p in the £ - by far the largest share is levied by the county council - and if councillors agree later this year to freeze the district’s element again for 2015/16, it will be the seventh year in a row that has happened.

The Tory-controlled council cabinet said the budget was aimed at protecting frontline services and delivering priority projects such as the new leisure facility in Cotlandswick as well as taking into account likely inflations, council priorities and further reductions in funding from central government.

Cllr Alec Campbell, portfolio holder for resources, commented: “The approach to budgeting differs this year as more use is being made of data on the demographic and other trends that drive service requirements.

“One result is that additional funding is proposed for planning and parking to improve these important services. Officers are working to deliver overall savings of £0.9m next year through contract negotiations with suppliers and a review of the Council’s other costs.”

But the recommendation from cabinet is unlikely to be voted through without debate.

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In an opening salvo, Green Councillor Simon Grover said : “Freezing council tax is a popular headline but it hides a massive, false economy.

“If St Albans council had just allowed council tax to keep pace with inflation, they’d now have £2.6 million extra to spend on public services. Instead, we see the results of cuts all around us from run-down playground equipment to higher parking fees and lengthy waits to get anything done.”

He added:: “Central government is determined to undermine the financial base of local councils by bribing them to cut their real income, and this council is playing along year after year. It’s a great shame and will ultimately cost local people dear.”