STROUD District Council will invest almost £2million into the local economy in the next financial year after budgetary proposals were approved at a meeting on Thursday night (January 24).

More than half of the money will be spent on creating jobs, promoting growth and supporting local businesses, with funds set aside for attracting new employers to the district and getting young people into apprenticeships.

There will also be a freeze on council tax as well as significant investments in housing and green energy projects.

The rainbow administration’s spending plans were passed by a majority of members after the Conservative group abstained from the vote, citing their opposition to plans in the budget for a small hydroelectric generator at Ebley Mill.

Conservative councillors said the £350,000 earmarked for the scheme should either be spent on flood alleviation or used to give residents a council tax rebate.

But their proposals were thrown out by the Labour, Lib Dem and Green Party members who control the council.

Announcing the budget, SDC’s member for finance, Cllr Tom Williams (Lab, Cainscross), said it would ‘provide a significant economic stimulus within the district’ in combination with the £36 million the authority will spend over the next five years on building and improving council homes.

Speaking afterwards, SDC’s leader, Geoff Wheeler (Lab, Dursley) said: "We want to help residents and businesses through difficult times by promoting employment, strengthening the local economy and helping the vulnerable."

He added: "Against a backdrop of higher living costs and low wage increases, freezing council tax will also help householders’ budgets."

Cllr Nigel Cooper (Con, Painswick), who proposed the council tax rebate, said SDC was only in a position to make investments because of sound financial management by the previous Tory administration and the fact that a £2.05 million investment had been recovered from the failed Icelandic bank Glitnr.

Lib Dem group leader and Cam West representative Dennis Andrewartha said it was an ‘ambitious budget’ and one the council should be ‘proud’ of.

Cllr Molly Cato (Green, Valley) said it protected those who are ‘suffering attacks on the basis of austerity politics’. "I am proud to support a budget which is entrepreneurial and forward-looking but also compassionate and prudent," she said.