Tens of thousands of Salford residents have been handed a timely financial boost after city chiefs agreed to freeze council tax bills for a fifth consecutive year.
The freeze will mean that the average Band D property’s bill remains at £1,326.31 per year – the same as it has been since April 2009.
Salford Mayor Ian Stewart, who has launched a number of attacks on the coalition Government’s cuts since taking office in May 2012, said people in the city were already struggling to make ends meet.
He said: “It would have been wrong to increase council tax bills at this time when energy prices are going up and wages are going down for many.
“We are freezing our council tax again, yet the government are cutting funding to our services again. They are forcing damaging cuts on our city which will hurt people in Salford, while we are trying to protect local people.
“The Government are ripping the heart out of Salford’s services, while at the same time they are hammering local people with their welfare changes, increasing dependency and the strain on health and social care, and stifling our chances to grow Salford’s economy.”
Due to the government’s measures to reduce the national budget deficit, Salford City Council will have to make £75 million of savings in the next three years to balance the budget.
This is in addition to the nearly £97 million of savings which had to be found to balance the budgets since 2010.
Despite severe cuts, the city council has protected some of the ‘most important services to Salford residents’.
Mr Stewart said: “In social care, we are protecting the most vulnerable and needy people in the substantial and critical care category.
“We are giving our youngest the best start in life with 25 hours of free nursery care for three and four-year-olds. We are increasing the living wage, which we implemented last year, from £7.45 per hour to £7.65 for 1,200 of our lowest paid staff and our apprentices.
Mr Stewart also said he was strongly committed to investing in major regeneration projects including schemes at Salford Central, the Bridgewater Canal, the Irwell River Park and Port Salford.
The vision is to create thousands of new jobs for local people and stimulate the local economy.
Among the major investments is the £5million Swinton Gateway in partnership with the NHS that aims to bring services closer to residents.
In the coming years, £650million will be injected in the Pendleton area, that should create 1,600 new homes, modernise another 1,250 homes and create 500 new jobs for the local community, the City Mayor said. In addition, another £177million have already been invested to build nine new schools.
He added: “MediaCityUK at Salford Quays has brought the council £6million in business rates and council tax in the last year alone. That’s extra money to spend on protecting vital services for local people.”
Government cuts will however adversely affect the services that the council and its partners can afford to deliver and the council is in the process of constantly reviewing them, Mr Stewart said. The government measures will also mean that up to 300 council posts could disappear through voluntary redundancy and early retirement.
The Mayor added: “The face of local government in Salford is being changed forever because of this Government’s austerity policies. Public services are going to be dramatically different in the future, because of the scale and severity of these cuts.
“We are doing everything we can to mitigate the damage done and to stimulate growth, build a healthy economy and create jobs for local people – but we need a fair deal from this government.”
At the same time, Manchester City Council is asking residents to voice their views on its draft budget for 2014-15 that includes a proposed council tax freeze and ongoing savings.
The Council has faced unprecedented cuts to its central government funding which meant it had to save £170 million between 2011 and 2013 and a further £80million in 2013 to 2015.
Councillor Jeff Smith, Executive Member for Finance, said: “We understand the difficult times that many Manchester people are experiencing and are keen to do what we can to help by keeping costs down. While we believe this is the right approach, we are keen to hear residents’ views on our proposals and priorities.”
The closing date for comments is Wednesday. After public consultation and consideration by the Finance Scrutiny Committee, the 2014/15 budget will be put forward for formal approval by the Budget Council meeting on March 7.
For more information and to take part in the consultation, visit www.manchester.gov.uk/budgetconsultation
Picture courtesy of AndrewLee1967 via Wiki Commons, with thanks.