GCC budget 2014/15 - Council tax freeze criticised by Stroud county councillor

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Stroud News and Journal: Photograph of the Author by , SNJ reporter for Stonehouse and Chalford. Twitter @ChrisWarneSNJ

GLOUCESTERSHIRE County Council opted to freeze its share of council tax for the fourth year in a row when it fixed its budget for 2014/15 on Wednesday.

The authority’s Conservative leader Mark Hawthorne told members at Shire Hall that the freeze was the ‘right thing to do’ because the alternative would mean taking money out of the local economy.

Cllr Hawthorne said the four-year freeze had saved county taxpayers a total of £48.7 million since 2010.

The £4.4 million worth of revenue which the county council will forego as a result of the freeze will now be partially offset by a £2.5 million grant from central Government, which is offering financial inducements to local authorities that agree not to raise council tax.

Stroud’s Green Party county councillor Sarah Lunnon criticised the freeze, however, and mocked Tory members of GCC’s cabinet who said they were taking ‘difficult decisions’ on public spending.

Challenging them to consider a rise, she said: “Well how about this decision, why not hold a council tax referendum and ask residents of Gloucestershire if they would fund action on climate change, action on families, action that helps Gloucestershire rather than action which impoverishes the poor and turns the Cotswold escarpment into a building site?”

Cllr Lunnon also launched a scathing attack on the minority Conservative administration for not setting aside enough money in the budget to tackle climate change.

“More extreme weather, more flooding is on the way, it is not enough to offer £50,000 to those affected when you have been warned what would happen and chose to carry on with business as usual.”

“Gloucestershire requires ambitious action on climate change, on greenhouse gas emissions and mitigation, yet this budget does not provide it.

“...Across the chamber do I face a cabinet made up of climate scientists, mathematicians and statisticians with a strong academic record to back up their inaction on the scientific consensus? No.

“I am faced with a cabinet which seem to believe that if we just carry on, business as usual the climate change risks will go away. This has resulted in a woeful dereliction of duty.”

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