POLITICIANS are divided on plans to freeze council tax.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to announce the measure in today’s emergency Budget.
The freeze is intended to soften the blow of tax rises and spending cuts to be unveiled today as the Government tries to reduce the £155bn deficit.
Before the general election the Conservatives promised that councils which budgeted for a council tax rise of 2.5% or less would receive extra funds from Westminster allowing them to freeze council tax.
Kirklees Council leader Clr Mehboob Khan yesterday called on the Tories to honour the promise.
The Labour man said: “If the Conservatives deliver on their promise to provide the money from central government for councils which plan a 2.5% rise, that’s welcome.
“But if the Government breaks its promise and doesn’t provide the extra funds, we will struggle with a council tax freeze.”
Clr Khan added: “Council tax leaders across the country are very cynical about the Government’s ability to deliver.”
But the planned council tax squeeze got a warmer reception from the Lib Dems and Conservatives on Kirklees.
Lib Dem leader Clr Kath Pinnock said yesterday: “I’m sure local people will be really pleased that they won’t have an increase in their council tax next year.”
Clr Pinnock added that a council tax freeze would not hit services if council workers’ wages were also frozen.
She said: “About 70% of council spending goes on salaries so, if you have a public sector pay freeze, you should be able to have a council tax freeze without services being affected.”
Clr Robert Light, who leads the Conservatives on Kirklees, also welcomed the council tax freeze yesterday.
The Birstall and Birkenshaw man said: “This is excellent news, I’m pleased to see this being brought in.”
Clr Light believes a council tax freeze will soften the blow of tax rises and spending cuts.
He said: “Given the problems we’re facing as a result of the last Labour government, it’s good that we will get one break.”
But Clr Andrew Cooper, who leads the four-strong Green group on Kirklees, does not support a council tax freeze.
The Newsome man said: “A council tax freeze – which is effectively a cut – will put people out of work.
“It will also mean a worse service from the council, which will affect people on low incomes the most.”
Meanwhile, a Government programme which has helped hundreds of people in Huddersfield find work will continue until March.
The Future Jobs Fund gives work experience to people who have been unemployed for more than six months. The scheme allows people to update their skills and improve their CVs, boosting their chances of finding a permanent job.
The Government has confirmed that the funding allowing Kirklees to run the programme is safe until March.
Clr Khan said: “It is obviously good news to hear that our latest bid has escaped the drastic cuts from the Tory-led government
“Despite these difficult times, 41% of those who complete the 26 week placements have moved directly into further employment, which proves just how valuable this scheme is.
“So far we have around 200 people employed in these jobs across the district.”