A BID to increase council tax by more than £20 a year for households across Worcestershire has been rejected.
The budget for 2013/14 was approved after a fierce debate at County Hall yesterday, with the ruling Conservative leadership insisting it would be “scandalous” to ask people to pay more.
The county council has pledged to boost spending on social care and roads, but is making cuts of £20 million elsewhere.
The council’s Labour group wanted a 1.99 per cent rates hike (£20.64 a year) and in return would have spent £500,000 on restoring axed bus services and £1 million extra on youth provision.
They also wanted the remainder of the £2.1m it would raise to go towards extending the pensioners bus pass scheme so they could use it before 9.30am.
But it was rejected by the controlling group, despite Labour warnings the budget was “cutting the throats of the people of Worcestershire”.
Councillor Peter McDonald, Labour group leader, said: “This Tory controlling group has no compassion, empathy or an ounce of conscience for their actions - you’ve got an obsession with cuts.”
Councillor Alan Amos, Labour’s deputy leader, said a 1.99 per cent rise would cost each household “40p a week” for better services.
“We all know that loneliness is one of the biggest problems for the elderly - how society treats its elderly is a true reflection of society itself,” he said.
In response the Conservatives said Labour was “ignoring public opinion” after recent surveys revealed 87 per cent of residents favoured a freeze.
Councillor David Thain, a Tory, said: “Why don’t you get out and talk to people and see what they want, instead of using this tired rhetoric.”
The leader, councillor Adrian Hardman, added: “All you understand is tax and spend - we are responding to what people tell us they want.”
During the debate the Lib Dems, which also backed a freeze, called for two cabinet posts to be axed and street lights to be dimmed in order to free up cash for lifting the lowest County Hall pay grade from £6.47 an hour to £6.84, and for a better bus pass scheme for young people.
That was also defeated after a vote, with Coun Hardman saying improving upon bus passes for teenagers is “not a priority.”
The vote means the average band D council tax bill is set to stay at its current level of around £1,441 a year.
The exact rates for each part of Worcestershire may change by around £3 a year depending on if any district councils increase their charges, with votes due this month.