Newcastle Borough Council leaders aim to freeze tax amid cuts to benefits
FAMILIES are set to enjoy a third successive council tax freeze from their borough authority.
Leaders at Newcastle Borough Council are proposing a draft budget which would come into force from April.
Owners of an average Band D property would continue to pay £176.93 over a year for the authority's services.
But the council insists residents will not see any fall in the quality of services, despite the freeze on its part of the tax bill and more than £1.8 million of savings being identified.
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The savings include nearly £500,000 of staffing efficiencies, but there are no plans for any redundancies during the next financial year.
The borough council is set to receive a £70,000 grant from the Government for freezing council tax, which is equivalent to a one per cent increase.
Labour council leader Gareth Snell said it was important to offer taxpayers stability in economically uncertain times.
He said: "Very early on I said that I wanted to freeze council tax. With the welfare reforms that are going on people are seeing their budgets fluctuating, so the more stability we can offer, the better."
Much of the staffing savings will come from the removal of seven vacant posts, including civil enforcement officer and landscape officer positions.
But around 24 low paid members of staff, including cleaners, will see their pay increased to £7.45 per hour, as part of Labour's Living Wage initiative.
Mr Snell added: "This isn't just about saving money, it's also about redistributing our resources so we can give better value for money."
The budget proposals detail £346,000 of additional income for the borough council.
This includes £90,000 in rent paid by Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire County Council for the use of the Civic Offices.
Mr Snell said the borough council would be looking to increase income further by contracting out staff and equipment to organisations such as the county council.
The council is to set up an 'invest to save' fund, which will allow managers to put money-saving ideas into practice during the financial year, without having to wait until the next budget is set.
A new funding officer will also be tasked with searching for and securing grants.
Sheila Bryant, chairman of Poolfields Residents' Association, said: "The council tax freeze will be very welcome because it's an area where there is a lot of unemployment and people on benefits.
"Times are hard at the moment so any saving we can make will be well received."
The budget proposals are based on the presumption that the council's grant from the Government will fall by five per cent, which will equate to a 16 per cent fall in the amount the council can spend on services.
Detailed budget proposals, together with a report on the recent budget public consultation will be considered by the transformation and resources overview and scrutiny committee on December 10.
Meanwhile, Staffordshire County Council is also freezing tax and police and crime commissioner Matthew Ellis has pledged not to increase the 13 per cent section of the bill paid to police.