Council tax will go up 6% next year councillors have decided.
At the annual budget setting meeting last night the ruling Labour group got its way.
Former Tory leader, Clr Robert Light, described Labour’s plan as a “Valentine’s Day massacre” of public services.
But despite opposition from all three opposition groups, Labour eventually secured enough votes to pass its budget proposal.
The 32 Labour councillors present were supported by two of the four independent councillors, Clr Jean Calvert, a former Labour member, and Clr Edgar Holroyd-Doveton.
The two other independent councillors both abstained.
The Conservatives, Lib Dems and Green parties had all put forward alternative plans that saw only a 5% rise.
But none of the three could get enough support for their amendments.
The 6% rise will cost the average household just over £5 extra a month and will help to pay for increased costs of social care and offset the council’s significantly reduced grant from government.
The rise, the largest in a decade, will bring an additional £9.7m into the council’s budget.
It comes after the government decided to slash another £25m of funding from Kirklees over the next two years.
The overall cut in support from Westminster over the past decade now totals a stunning £197m – about two thirds less than what it was in 2007/08.
The government wants all councils to be completely independent from central support.
This year council tax made up 54% of the borough’s funding (£159m) – this includes £7m which is specifically to support adult social care services.
The rest of the £294m total comes from business rates (25%), government grants (17%) and a one-off contribution from the council’s reserves (11%).
By 2019/20 government funding will have dropped significantly and overall there will £25m less to spend compared to now.
This also means that the council is having to rely much more on other available funding sources i.e. council tax and business rates.
The 6% increase it will bring in an additional £9.7 million to the budget.
Presenting the budget, Deputy Leader, Clr Shabir Pandor, who has overseen the budget this year, said: “The next two years don’t get any easier, we will have to save another £44m.
“Government policy is shifting the burden to local taxpayers.
“There are many councils struggling and many on the verge of insolvency. My heart goes out to them because we don’t want to be in that situation.
“Looking forward it might be bleak but this budget has new opportunities.
“We’re going to re-invest in town centres, communities and support local champions.
“This will make sure we create the vision for sustainable growth.”
Clr Naheed Mather attacked the Conservative group’s amendment, which sought only a 5% rise amid a reduction in the investment on town centres and a reduced cut for libraries.
The Tories also wanted to massively increase the spending on road repairs.
Clr Mather said: “The opposition have no clue what to do in the face of relentless government cuts.
“For another year we seek to mitigate the damage done by the Conservative government.
“It’s not easy, nigh on impossible.
“No organisation can have 60% of its budget removed and not be in serious trouble.
“Pretending everything can go on is the most cynical of Tory narratives.
“£197m cuts so far and another £44m over the next two years - that’s the context of this budget that they want to avoid.
“Let’s be clear where the blame lies for the financial position of this council.
“Even in these difficult times we want to continue to protect the most vulnerable.”
Veteran cabinet member, Clr Peter McBride, referred to the Prime Minister’s avoidance of big issues in Huddersfield.
He said: “If Mrs May would take up Thelma Walker’s offer to visit Kirklees she would see HRI threatened with closure, the TransPennine Express overcrowded, and a council trying to desperately to plug the yawning gap in funding for adult social care.
“She would reluctantly admire the council’s managing of affairs despite a £200m cut and £44m to come.”
Labour’s Clr Cathy Scott reminded all members that there had been a consensus to support adult social care, the single biggest cost to taxpayers.
“Someone’s got to pay,” she said.
“It’s not covered by the NHS, council tax or insurance.
“This council has to cover the entire shortfall.
“Adult social care remains the greatest long term pressure for councils across the country.
“It needs a sustainable funding solution but until then we have to keep picking up the pieces.”
But leader of the Conservative opposition, Clr David Hall, claimed Labour’s so called ‘investment budget’ was “Throwing money at the problem without a strategic plan”.
“It’s lacking imagination,” he claimed.
“Where are imaginative ways to raise money, or cut costs?
“It’s the same old story, council tax up, parking charges up.
“It’s lacking in trying to resolve residents’ concerns – roads, cleanliness and libraries.
“It is entirely ignorant of those concerns.
“It’s a lack lustre budget from a lack lustre cabinet.
“Worse than that is you had more money than anticipated.
“This could have been a win/win budget.
“It could’ve been a veritable Pandora’s box, instead we got Pandor’s box.
“It’s an S.O.S. budget.”
Clr Hall, a teacher by trade, said: “I would give it a D for direction, an E for effort, and a F for, you can make your own minds up or say ‘flippin’ useless’.
“We should be throwing out this budget and the whole cabinet with it.”
Deputy Tory chief, Clr John Taylor, added: “While I’m not surprised by this budget it’s hard not to be hugely disappointed.
“It’s another year of slash and tax.
“If they had anything about them they would look at the finances in a more imaginative manner.
“All the opposition groups have used the £1.6m (business rates pilot cash) available to us this year.
“This Labour council could have taken advantage of that, but no, as expected they’re grasping for the full 6%, telling people this is the government’s fault.
“Plainly that’s untrue as there was an alternative.
“They’ve resisted using another unexpected bonus worth £9.1m per year, which you’re squirrelling away into reserves.
“Not satisfied with extracting the maximum in council tax, they also propose to take more in parking charges.
“They won’t tell us how much because there’s elections in May.”
Green leader, Clr Andrew Cooper, said: “The basic question is why did the government cut Kirklees so much and then give it permission to raise council tax?
“It’s passing the buck on, hoping people will fall for it.
“Sadly many will.
“It wasn’t Brussels we needed to take back control from, but Westminster.”
Lib Dem leader, Clr Nicola Turner, said there was parts of Labour’s budget she could support.
But she said there was too much uncertainty about what they would do with the investment budgets.
“There’s a lot we can accept in Labour’s budget but some things we can’t.
“Swingeing cuts in libraries for one – that will mean libraries inevitably will have to close.”
Addressing Clr Pandor, she added: “I’m concerned about the number of reviews and consultations.
“Investment, innovation, leadership and creativity are easy words to say, but we need fully costed plans.
“You spoke for four minutes, 18 seconds, but you said absolutely nothing.”
Summing up for Labour, Clr Graham Turner, said: “No one likes to increase council tax, it affects us all, it affects our families.
“But the demands on the council keep rising.
“We have a significant number of local authorities teetering on the edge, they can’t all be poor councils.
“Given the amount on the financial cliff edge it’s clear there isn’t enough support for local government.”
Following the debate on Labour’s plan, votes on the three opposition amendments all failed to get enough support.
A vote on the original plan was then taken by the 68 members present and it sneaked past the post thanks to support from independent councillors.