West Oxfordshire council tax frozen for second year running
Despite difficult economic times, West Oxfordshire District Council has confirmed it will not be increasing its council tax charge for the forthcoming financial year, 2012/13.
At its annual council tax setting meeting, the District Council also pledged to protect key voluntary sector organisations, support the local economy and continue with its efficiency savings programme.
Second lowest council tax charge in England and lowest in Oxfordshire
For the second year running the District Council has taken up the Government’s offer to part-fund a council tax freeze.
This decision means that, at £81.63p a year for a Band D property, West Oxfordshire looks set to continue to have the second lowest council tax of all shire district councils in England and the lowest of all five district councils in Oxfordshire.
The £81.63p annual charge equates to an average of a little over £1.50p per week per household for all district council services, including affordable housing, planning, waste and recycling services and leisure centres.
Cllr Barry Norton, Leader of the Council hoped that a council tax freeze would benefit residents at a time when inflation is a particularly large strain on household and individual finances. He said: “I think the Council Tax proposals set out (by Cabinet) represents continuing excellent Value for Money for West Oxfordshire residents.
“Our charge remains less than half the national average charge ensuring local residents continue to benefit from our determination to use as little of taxpayers money as possible whilst continuing to provide the services which help to ensure our district continues to be one of the best places to live and work and visit.”
Similar to other local authorities, West Oxfordshire is redressing its budgets following cuts of almost 25% in government grant as part of the government’s plan to bring public finances back into balance.
An efficiencies programme started four years ago has so far delivered £2.1m savings in total for the Council.
Cllr Norton said he had been struck by the amount of savings made with very little impact to services. He said, “We have been innovative in how we deliver these services, more recently taking advantage of improved procurement and shared services amongst other approaches.
“Both councillors and officers are united in this approach to improving the value for money of our services and both have made sacrifices through pay and allowances freezes over recent years. My thanks are offered to all that have made these personal sacrifices in these difficult financial times.”
Protecting key voluntary sector organisations and the local economy
The Council confirmed it would be protecting key voluntary sector organisations from significant grant cuts with a budget of £281,000 set aside. However, grant allocation had been readjusted to match the Council’s priorities, meaning some organisations would see an increase and some would see cuts.
Commitment to supporting the local economy was reaffirmed with continuation of free car parking and no increase in charges for taxi licences, rents for market stallholders and trade waste charges. The Council had also lobbied the government strongly to mitigate the impact of business rates caused by the increase in the retail price increase in the autumn of last year.
Cllr Simon Hoare, Cabinet Member for Resources said, “Freezing council tax sends out a clear message to residents – we are on your side, doing all we can to help.
“As I’ve said before this is not a knee jerk reaction budget, not a slash and burn budget and there is no panic in the ranks. However, as these difficult times are going to continue, our medium term financial strategy is very important, and we are going to have to live within our means.
“Staff are playing an important part towards the efficiency savings programme, looking for opportunities to make savings and generate income, wherever they can. We are all very much in this together with everyone looking at ways to do things better, smarter, more efficient.
“This is a good budget that helps to meet our objectives.”
The Council’s net operating expenditure for 2012/13 was set at nearly £9m, a decrease of £480,000 or 5% on last year’s budget.
West Oxfordshire’s current (2011/12) share of the total Council Tax bill represents only 5.6% of the total. The bulk of the bill, 80%, is payable to Oxfordshire County Council for a range of services including Education, Social Services and Highways Services amongst others.
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