Sunday, 17 February 2013

Council tax to increase

COUNCIL tax bills are to rise by about £8 after increases as high as 10 per cent were put forward by public bodies.

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The total bill is expected to rise by 0.6 per cent, an extra £7.97 for a band D property, from April 1.

Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council – which gets most of the bill cash – is expected to freeze its take at £1,173.72 for a band D.

But West Midlands Fire Service is set to agree a 10.42 per cent increase, an extra £4.99 for a band D property, £47.83 to £52.82.

This is just below the £5 threshold that would trigger a public referendum on whether to accept the rise.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones is proposing a three per cent rise, taking the force band D bill from £99.45 to £102.43.

A decision will be made this month for the three public bodies. Parish councils will get extra cash. This does not include Knowle and Dorridge.

West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner Bob Jones pledged to recruit 100 officers “through redeployment and recruitment of civilian staff” who will not use warranted police powers.

He said: “In difficult financial circumstances, protecting the services that matter to our communities is key.”

Mr Jones – a Labour member of Wolverhampton City Council – said the national funding for police is “unfair” and the force had less cash from ministers.

He said: “I am committed to keeping the policing precept as low as possible.”

Mr Jones has rejected a Government grant to freeze the council tax increase, saying this would result in a 10 per cent hike in 2015 when the grant is no longer available.

Fire authority chairman John Edwards said: “Even with an average £5 extra a year from households, local people will still be making the lowest contribution anywhere in the country to their fire and rescue service.

“This small increase is needed because we are losing over £20m of central government grant during the current four-year period.”

“I give an absolute pledge to local tax payers that every penny of this increase will be spent on our frontline services.

Our firefighter numbers will have fallen from 1,600 to 1,230 between 2011 and 2015.”

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