Council tax freeze

Lord Smith
Lord Smith

COUNCIL tax in Wigan is set to be frozen for the second year running.

The ruling Cabinet has confirmed the council’s budget will be based on bills staying the same. The move is expected to be confirmed by the next full meeting of the council on March 7.

It means Wigan then qualifies for the Government grant ‘carrot’, offered to local authorities which support Chancellor George Osborne’s plea to freeze bills.

But it won’t affect the three-year, £66m programme of spending cuts which is being rolled out across the borough.

Labour Group Leader Lord Smith told the Evening Post that councillors had agreed to recommend a financial strategy built around a zero council tax increase. He said: “We have recognised how hard life is for many families in the borough because of the challenging situations they face as the economy falters.

“Working with colleagues across Greater Manchester we have achieve zero increases in police and fire levies so we are able to propose that we freeze council Tax for next year.

“The Government is only offering a one year support for this.

“The following year this grant drops out so unfortunately there will be a double tax rise the following year.

“However people will have the benefit of not having to pay more next year. As they say, “Every little helps”.

“The council’s budget will also have to cope with the next round of the £66m cuts that the Coalition is forcing on Wigan Council.

“So although there will be no increase in council tax there will be more big cuts which will unfortunately affect both services and jobs.”

Opposition group chiefs say that they strongly welcome the recommendation and expect it to be approved by the majority of the town hall’s 75 councillors.

Leader of the Opposition Independent Group Coun Gary Wilkes said: “We welcome the ruling group’s decision not to increase council tax for the second year in a row.

“But it’s a shame that Wigan Council can not carry on investing millions of pounds in libraries, parks, highways, sport facilities and open spaces.”

Chairman of the borough’s Conservative Federation, former Orrell Councillor Michael Winstanley, said: “I am pleased that the council have seen sense and decided to follow the sensible policy laid down by the Conservative led Government.

“This is the second consecutive year that the Government has met the promise to freeze council tax and this will be welcomed by council tax payers in Wigan.

“This is in marked contrast to the excessive rises Wigan tax payers suffered under 13 year of Labour Government.”