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‘Think again’ on plan for freezing tax
COUNCIL chiefs in Worcester are being asked to “think again” about proposals to freeze tax at a time when millions of extra pounds are needed to pay towards a new swimming pool.
Councillor Richard Boorn, the Labour group’s finance spokesman, said he believes the path the ruling Conservative administration is following at the city council is “irresponsible”.
As your Worcester News revealed last month, bosses want to freeze council tax for an unprecedented third year in a row this April to help households.
But the authority is also looking at building a £13 million swimming pool next to the existing Perdiswell Leisure Centre.
As a consequence the council’s authorised debt limit is expected to increase from £15.5 million to £30.5 million by 2015/16, although it is very unlikely the entire project will need to be financed that way.
In February, the council will take a crunch vote on whether or not to freeze the council tax rate in return for accepting a cash lump sum of about £50,000 from the Government.
Because the Guildhall only takes 11 per cent of the overall household bill, a rise of two per cent would cost taxpayers just £3.36 a year for an average band D property, 28p per month, and bring in £100,000.
Coun Boorn said: “The way it is structured, our borrowing ratio will go from six per cent to around 20 per cent if this goes through.
“Why the council thinks it can do this with the public’s money is beyond me. If you look at the position, it does not strike me as good stewardship. The kind of rise we’ve talked about would mean £2 or £3 a year, so it’s irresponsible not to look at it.
“At the moment they are looking at putting us into more and more debt, I don’t believe it’s right.”
The Conservatives have consistently refuted criticism of the move, with leader Coun Simon Geraghty insisting they have not decided how the proposed pool will be funded yet.
He has also said that an increase in council tax of two per cent would mean the Government withdrawing its cash bonus, which would leave Worcester only £50,000 better off overall.
Coun Andy Roberts, the finance spokesman, says a freeze is “a pledge” made to hard-pressed households.
The new pool, if approved, will be open in early 2016, with the current facility at Perdiswell then set to be demolished.