A GOVERNMENT minister has criticised Kirklees Council for rising council tax by 1.6%.
But some Kirklees councillors have bit back, saying they cannot be expected to make £26m cuts without it.
Full Council last night backed plans to rise council tax 1.6% – it will generate £2m additional income for the authority.
But it’s caused division among councillors – Conservative amendment called for the council to accept the Government’s grant of almost £1.6m if they froze council tax.
The amendment was voted down and the 1.6% rise will come into effect from April.
After the Examiner revealed the hike yesterday a spokesman for Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis sent a statement saying: “It is disappointing that Kirklees Council are throwing our [national] £450m freeze deal in residents’ faces and seeking to raise council tax at a time when they should be looking for efficiency savings and rooting out waste as recommended in the Government’s ‘50 ways to save’ guide.
“Town halls looking to hike up the cost of living are showing real contempt for hard-working families and pensioners.”
The Government’s 50 ways to save money include cancelling glitzy awards ceremonies, opening commercial coffee shops in libraries and scrapping the chief executive post.
But Clr Shabir Pandor, Kirklees Cabinet member for Resources, said the Government could not “have its cake and eat it”.
“They’re asking us to make cuts, our statutory obligations remain the same and they expect us to have to do it all with less money,” Clr Pandor said. “We know everyone should be in this together, but I don’t think they do.
“The bottom line is this 1.6% will generate £2m, we still have to make savings of £26m.
“Inflation has gone up and we’ve kept council tax the same, that’s been a cut in real terms the last few years.
“The bottom line will be service cuts, they can’t have their cake and eat it.”
At last night’s meeting of the full council, party lines were split over the proposals.
A Government grant of just under £1.569m was available to Kirklees if they held council tax at the same level as 2012/13.
Clr Robert Light, leader of the Conservatives, said: “If we accept the Government’s grant then the £2m we’ll be taking from residents pockets can stay in their pockets for them to spend.”
Clr Nicola Turner, a Lib Dem councillor, said the proposal amounts to £20 a year extra for Band D households.
She said: “That’s £2 a month, would we spend £2 a month to keep our libraries open? Would we spend £2 a month for a full grit run? Yes we would. Where are the cuts coming from if we don’t pass this and accept the Government’s grant?”
Clr David Sheard, Cabinet member for resources, described the grant as a “short-term bribe” adding: “This has come from Eric Pickles, I’m not trusting Eric with our future budgets.”
It follows a freeze since 2010 and means annual bills will rise by £15 for those on Band A up to £45 for the highest band.