MOST Wirral council tax payers will see their bills rise by less than 50 pence a week under the budget revealed by the borough’s Labour and Liberal Democrat administration last night.
Council leader Steve Foulkes said he was proud of the budget, which will see an increase in council tax of half the rate of inflation and major investment in high speed internet access linking the borough’s business centres.
Among the budget announcements were an increase in the new apprenticeship scheme, and a freeze in car parking charges.
The council will also take over funding a scheme designed to reduce alcohol sales to teenagers from the NHS and plough £8.9m into the assistive technology scheme to allow more elderly people to remain in their homes.
Extra resources will be used to extend a free insulation scheme across the borough’s homes, working with energy companies as part of a four year project totalling £18m, and extra cash is being found for environmental schemes, recycling and dog wardens.
For households with occupants over 75, the current discount scheme will also be extended, so they will see no increase this coming year in council tax bills.
Band A to C properties – which include some 90% of Wirral homes – will see their bills rise in 2010/11 by between 31p and 41p a week, with the rise totalling 1.67%, compared to 4.4% last year.
Council tax for an average Band D home will rise £24.04 to £1,464.20, with Band As paying £976.14 and Band H properties seeing council tax rise to £2,928.40, when police and fire contributions are included.
Cllr Foulkes said the authority had “been fantastic at producing efficiencies” and all the savings were achievable.
Describing it as a budget “about jobs and the environment”, Cllr Foulkes said: “This is the third budget of our administration. It’s not about the election, it’s about the future of our citizens.”
Deputy leader of the council and leader of the Lib-Dem group, Cllr Simon Holbrook, praised the initiatives in the budget, and said: “We are seeing the effects of the difficult decisions made in previous years.
“The real challenge is to get transformational change in the Wirral economy. The council cannot do it itself, but we have to play our part.”
Cllr Foulkes also announced plans to bring Wallasey’s Guinea Gap Baths back into mainstream funding, after it was given just two years in the Strategic Asset Review.
Conservative leader Jeff Green said he welcomed some of the initiatives but it was a “missed opportunity”.
He said: “Last year, we were told because the budget was in such a mess we had to close swimming pools and libraries and that ‘doing nothing was not an option’.
“But that has been shown to be massively incorrect. It was a huge con on the people of Wirral. This budget shows how wrong they were 12 months ago.”
l Cheshire West and Chester Council – which covers Neston – will hold its budget setting meeting on Thursday (February 25). The meeting can be viewed live on the website at www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk