Ex-leader: Council tax freeze will hit services

PUBLISHED: 11:43 24 June 2010 | UPDATED: 18:04 25 August 2010

THE government s plan to freeze council tax will mean more cuts to services, according to the former council leader.

THE government's plan to freeze council tax will mean more cuts to services, according to the former council leader.

While central government cannot force councils to freeze their budgets, Chancellor George Osborne has promised that any authority which limits spending rises to 2.5 per cent will get that amount back from Whitehall.

Since 1995, Bexley council has been forced to increase its rates, but now under the new rules they will be prevented from doing so.

Labour councillor Chris Ball, who was also council leader for four years from 2002, said: "The plan to freeze council tax will mean the council will have to either stop providing services or charge people for them.

"Elderly home care has gone up by £3 an hour. Services are going to have to be cut back. It is inevitable.

"Services are slipping because of under-investment. Nobody has taken the political decision to stop doing things so everything is being done not as well as they used to be.

"It is a strange move by the government as they talked about local people being the decision-makers, setting up their own schools and so on. Now local decision-makers cannot set their own budgets."

Current council leader Teresa O'Neill told the Times that that she welcomed the announcement.

She added: "We still have control of our budgets. They are not freezing it, they are saying they would like people to freeze it. When they were in power in Bexley, Labour put up council tax by 40 per cent over four years. We have got to get more for less. We started something called Strategy 2014 last September, which looks at all our options and makes sure we never duplicate our services.

"We are all going to have to do our share, but we are protecting our frontline services. It is about working together as a council and squeezing out all the pips."

Leader of Greenwich Council, Chris Roberts, refused to comment.

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