WIGAN’s council tax, ruling Cabinet members have decided, will rise by two per cent.
The town hall’s medium-term financial statement which reported to members in August assumed an increase of 2.5 per cent for the duration of the plan, which includes £19m of further government-induced cuts.
However, changes to the tax base, leading councillors were told, now meant that spending chiefs were able to recommend a change to next month’s Full Council Meeting in line with the Coalition’s cap for 2013/14.
But the budget plan still means that scores more council jobs and half of the borough’s old folks day centres will be axed as the council battles to balance the books after more axe swinging from Whitehall.
Council leaders, attempting the “most difficult and challenging” annual budget yet since the economic crisis enveloped the country, will reduce the head count by the equivalent of 211 full-time positions.
However the blow is tempered somewhat because almost a quarter of the jobs will come from staff transferring to a new IT service-provider being jointly set up with neighbouring Bolton Council.
Six of the current 12 old people’s day centres are also now proposed for closure.
However, all Wigan’s 21 children’s centres will remain open under the new budget offering the same hours, in a demonstration of the authority’s commitment to this key services despite a £4m cut from Government in the Council’s early years grant.
Other moves to save the £18.8m spending axe announced by the Government include £4m of procurement efficiencies, changes to the waste collection and an increase in recycling (£1.1m) Invest to Save on the highways (£2m) along with modernising the Council’s economic regeneration, environmental and leisure areas (£2.7m).
The local authority has chosen to decline the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles’s £1m grant if it were to freeze council tax next year because that would result in the town hall’s needing to make a further year-on-year saving of £1m, resulting in more services being reduced.
Leader Lord Smith said that borough was being discriminated against by a Government that favoured the Tory shire counties in the south.
Wigan has been forced to implement the third highest spending cuts in Britain out of 152 local authority areas despite being regularly hailed as a pathfinder in terms of innovation and efficiency within local government.
Lord Smith, who lead the opposition charge against the Coalition’s system of apportioning council spending cuts in the House of Lords, said: “We in this borough are the wrong colour for this government. The borough has to deal with spending cuts of more than £200 per person while shire authorities in the south are facing cuts of £10 per person.”