22nd Sep, 2018

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street's council tax plans could be blocked

Felix Nobes 31st Jan, 2018

THE WEST Midlands mayor Andy Street could be about to suffer his first major setback – over his proposal to raise council tax.

His plans could be blocked by members of the recently created West Midlands Combined Authority.

If so, council tax bills are still expected to go up by up to 6 per cent, as councils seek to balance their books.

But the region’s mayor wants to add more to residents’ council tax bills with his own so-called “precept” – which he would use to help pay for his regionwide transport and other schemes.

His Draft Budget proposes around a £12 rise to the annual council tax bill for average band D properties, to raise £7.5million.

But the WMCA has powers to vote down mayoral proposals with a two-thirds majority.

Coventry council leader George Duggins – a member of the West Midlands Combined Authority – expressed his opposition to the mayor’s proposals.

At a Coventry council meeting last week, Coun Duggins also claimed there was opposition from other council leaders who make up the WMCA.

The leaders from seven West Midlands predominatly Labour-run councils including Coventry, Birmingham and Tory-controlled Solihull have voting rights at the WMCA.

A decision is expected on February 9.

Coun Duggins told the Coventry council meeting: “I spoke with my Labour colleagues on the Combined Authority and I have to say, I couldn’t support it.

“It turned out that nobody really agreed with it. Because here was another precept that was going to be added to the council tax bill.

“At the end of it colleagues, we are the billing authority.

“And when we send bills out to get money from people who are hard pressed, we want to make sure that what we are asking for is the minimum that we can possibly expect.”

Coun Duggins also said Mayor Street’s proposal was not supported because of the type of one-off capital expenditure schemes Mr Street was seeking to spend the money on, as opposed to raising revenue for jobs and services.

A West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) spokesman said: “The scrutiny and consultation process for the proposed budget will run until February 9 when the Board is scheduled to make a final decision.

“Options are being considered and further discussions on the draft budget are being held with WMCA members, the business community and other stakeholders.”

Leader of Solihull council and deputy mayor, Bob Sleigh, mirrored these words and refused to comment until after the consultation.

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