18th Feb, 2019

West Midlands mayor's council tax rise scrapped

Felix Nobes 12th Feb, 2018

WEST Midlands mayor Andy Street’s proposal to raise council tax has been scrapped, after objections previously reported in this newspaper.

Mr Street wanted to increase residents’ council tax bills this year with his own so-called “precept”.

He planned to use the £7.5million it would raise to help pay for his regionwide transport and infrastructure schemes.

But the constituent councils of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) voted against the precept and approved an amended budget on Friday.

Mr Street said:“We have worked hard together to reach a financial agreement that does not affect spending and investment schemes.

“The leaders felt that in the current financial climate a precept on the council taxpayer in this coming year was not right at this time and I have listened to that view.

“I am delighted that we have now been able to agree a funding arrangement which both addresses those concerns and allows us all to continue to work on behalf of the West Midlands.”

Many West Midlands councils are to raise council tax by up to 6 per cent.

The increases come as councils seek to balance their books after years of government funding cuts.

The mayor’s draft budget proposed around a £12 rise to the annual council tax bill for average band D properties, to raise around £7.5million.

An amended version of the budget was passed by the WMCA after Friday’s meeting in Birmingham Council House.

The mayor’s annual budget from April will be around £170 million for 2018/19.

The precept which would have enabled schemes to ‘tackle congestion’ has been deferred for a year, according to the mayor.

As we reported two weeks ago, Coventry council leader, George Duggins, and other leaders opposed the precept.

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

“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.

The WMCA says the budget will include £823,000 from the government’s Mayoral Capacity Fund.

The seven councils, including Coventry and Solihull, will each contribute £265,000 of tax-payers’ money.

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