Council tax frozen across Comet country

A FREEZE will be put on council tax across Comet country for the forthcoming year, with several authorities this week agreeing to keep levels the same.

County councillors voted today (Friday) at County Hall to freeze its levels for the 2011/12 period, a move which will earn them �12.6m from a Council Tax Freeze Grant.

The grant will ensure the county council won’t lose out on the money they would receive if it was to increase the taxes.

As a result, residents living in a typical Band D property will pay a rate of �1,118.83.

The freeze comes despite the council having to slash �200m for spending over the next four years, �110 million of that from efficiency savings.

Leader of the council Robert Gordon said: “Months of careful planning, scrutinising our expenditure and seeking out efficiencies have enabled us to freeze the council tax for the second year running.

“This is despite the difficult economic conditions we face and growing demands for our services.

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“We have listened to Hertfordshire residents and prioritised the services they value.”

But David Lloyd, executive member for resources and economic wellbeing, highlighted that further savings would still need to be made.

He said: “We must keep pressing for further savings.

“We know that the grant we receive from central government will fall further over the next few years while pressure to spend more will continue.

“Over the next year alone, we need to find an additional �3 million to allow for inflation, and �10 million to care for the needs of our changing population.”

North Herts District Council (NHDC) have also agreed to freeze its taxes, while Stevenage Borough and Central Bedfordshire councils are expected to make a decision next week.

Meanwhile, Hertfordshire Police Authority made the decision on Wednesday and at the same time pledged to protect neighbourhood policing and minimise the impact on frontline policing, despite Hertfordshire Constabulary facing a 20 per cent cut in government funding.

Stuart Nagler, chairman of the authority, said: “We have a strong track record in providing value for money and now face one of the biggest challenges ever, with �36m in savings to find in the next four years.”

The authority’s revenue budget for 2011/12 will be �190.6m, a reduction of �0.2m on the current year.

Prudent planning and management, including a vacancy freeze and increased collaboration work is expected to provide savings, as well as proposals to close stations, including Baldock’s.

Front desk service at Hitchin and Letchworth GC’s stations is also likely to be axed in a bid to save money.

Chief Constable, Frank Whiteley, said: “Whilst difficult decisions have to be made, our focus remains on delivering frontline services to the people of Hertfordshire.”

Bedfordshire Police Authority announced its decision to follow suit today (Friday) and also pledges to protect frontline policing.

The force faces a funding shortfall of around �19m over the next four years and two-thirds of the savings will have to be made over the next two years.

Peter Conniff, chairman of Bedfordshire Police Authority, said: “Fortunately we are well-equipped to deal with this challenging situation thanks to our previous efficiency programmes and contingency planning.

“Our visions and aspirations for the future remain as strong as ever, to improve performance, drive down crime and ensure the safety of our communities while delivering a service Bedfordshire can be proud of.”

Both forces are now eligible for a government grant which ensures both authorities will make up any lost revenue generated from council tax.