Council Tax freeze agreed but major cuts on way with £9.4m savings by 2018

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Calderdale Council’s budget for the next three years was set amid a fiery debate at Halifax Town Hall.

Valley residents will see a freeze in Council Tax for two years, but the council has to find £9.4 million savings by 2018.

The Conservative-led administration worked with the Liberal Democrat to pass its budget.

Coun Stephen Baines (Con, Northowram and Shelf), leader of the council, told the meeting: “There are very few changes to the budget for 2015/16, but the Council Tax still remains as a zero increase as in the agreement last year.

“The major changes in our budget come in in 2017/18. We’ve always firmly believed that this should be decided after consultation with the general public, which is why we haven’t put forward an firm proposals,” he said.

“We’ve put forward some rough headings which are not set in concrete, so the general public can say what their priorities are.”

The budget was roundly criticised by the opposing Labour group, who told the meeting they were of the understanding until a few minutes prior to the meeting that they had the support of the Liberal Democrat group.

Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town), leader of the Labour group, said: “The Conservative budget lacks imagination, provides no sense of vision for the future and puts off any meaningful decisions until after the election.”

An alternative budget put forward by the Labour group was blocked, because although Labour are the largest party on the council, they are one member short of an overall majority.

The Mayor of Calderdale Coun Pat Allen (Lib Dem, Elland) sought legal advice before casting a deciding vote supporting the Conservative-led administration’s budget.

Amendments put forward by the Liberal Democrat group which include measures to reduce energy usage in council buildings by 20 per cent and to set aside £1.4 million to improve insulation in social housing were passed when the Labour group abstained.

A proposal by the Labour group to inject a further £35,000 of investment into the Orangebox young people’s centre, Halifax, was passed unanimously.