Mixed reaction to news of possible council tax freeze
A GOVERNMENT proposal to freeze council tax across the country for the third year in a row has divided authorities across Gloucestershire.
The Conservative Party announced its intention to offer authorities the chance to maintain current levels of the tax on the first day of its annual conference in Birmingham on Monday.
But at least one of the county's councils was wary of the plans.
Lib Dem-controlled Cheltenham Borough Council bosses were reluctant to "put out the flags" to greet the freeze which the Government claimed would "really help hard-working families and those on fixed incomes".
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John Rawson, deputy leader of Cheltenham Borough Council and cabinet member for finance, said the proposal was 'no good' if it was accompanied by cuts to other government funding streams.
"This looks like a smoke and mirrors job to me, giving a one-off amount with one hand and cutting our annual grant with the other," he said.
"I will want to look more carefully at what the Government is proposing before putting the flags out and celebrating.
"One-off give-aways are no good to Cheltenham if they are accompanied by huge long-term cuts in our Government grant. It's a 'live now and pay later' approach that will give us short-term relief but land us in bigger financial problems later on.
"That's something that everybody in Cheltenham needs to worry about, not just councillors, because it could result in cuts to our most cherished local services."
The Government's plan involves distributing £450 million to local authorities which commit to not increasing council tax next year. It has already provided grants worth almost £2 billion to help freeze council tax over the last two years.
Chancellor George Osbourne's intention to continue this trend was welcomed by Cheltenham's Tory-run neighbouring councils.
Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, was in favour but urged caution.
"I think we need to look very closely at the details of the amounts, but broadly I welcome it. It is important to keep council tax down when people's income was being squeezed," he said.
"There is no doubt that all councils have financial pressures so we welcome any help towards keeping council tax down but we will have to look at the details."
Allen Keyte, Tewkesbury Borough Council's lead member for finance and asset management, said: "The chancellor's commitment to helping all households, by providing the funding to freeze council tax for another year, is to be welcomed.
"At this time of financial uncertainty most taxpayers will be pleased to be able to rely on this level of security with their finances for our services."
Lynden Stowe, leader of Cotswold District Council, was also in favour of the plan.
When asked if the Government's announcement was music to his ears, Councillor Stowe said "absolutely".