Tories annouce 1.9 per cent draft council tax increase

RESIDENTS in North Somerset are facing a council tax increase of less than two per cent this year.

RESIDENTS in North Somerset are facing a council tax increase of less than two per cent this year.

A draft figure of 1.9 per cent was announced by North Somerset Council leader councillor Nigel Ashton at a meeting on January 8.

The Conservative administration, which took control of the Town Hall after May's local election, is on track to keep its promise to the electorate of a below inflation council tax increase.

However, bosses at the unitary authority have been accused of 'slashing and burning services' and a 'certain amount of scaremongering' by Cllr Tom Leimdorfer.

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He referred to an announcement made by executive members in October, which indicated a £17million budget deficit over the next two years, which has since been reduced to £4.2million for 2009/10.

Cllr Ashton also announced in October he expected 200 jobs could be cut leaving staff worrying over Christmas and giving staff 'negative morale'.

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The Times understands nobody will be forced to lose their job and many of the cuts will be made by getting rid of posts that are already vacant.

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Leimdorfer, who presented the joint opposition budget on behalf of the Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups, said: "We were pleased the proposed cuts to the youth service and to preventative work with vulnerable children and families were restored.

"But we are very concerned about the significant reduction in the educational psychology and education welfare services which could impact on children with special needs and those at risk of exclusion."

But the opposition groups' budget statement said it believed the council was 'on balance' right about axing transport for faith schools.

The council received a better than expected grant from central Government which has helped to reduce the deficit, according to Cllr Ashton.

It received a five per cent increase rather than a predicted 2 per cent figure which has given the council's coffers a £1.3million unexpected boost this year.

This means authority's projected funding gap is now £4.2million for 2009/10.

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