Stormy meeting as Burnley votes to increase council tax

Coun. Mark Townsend
Coun. Mark Townsend
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BURNLEY’S share of the council tax for the next year is to be increased by just under 2%.

Burnley Borough Council set its budget for the coming 12 months at a stormy meeting of the full council where members from all three parties traded insults, with each accusing the other of playing politics.

The situation became so chaotic that Mayor of Burnley Coun. Charlie Bullas, chairing the meeting, had to call order and said he was “embarrassed” by the slanging match.

Announcing the council tax increase, Labour’s Executive member for resources Coun. Mark Townsend, said the raise would be “just under inflation and equivalent to just an extra 7p a week for most residents.”

He said: “This has been probably the most challenging budget the council has ever set. We have had to find a way of balancing the books while, at the same time, making sure we continue to provide efficient high quality services and support residents and businesses, all against a backdrop of massive cuts in Government grant.

“Our spending power has been cut by 8.8%, with Burnley being hit the hardest of any area in the country, and all this depends on us successfully jumping through Whitehall hoops to get a temporary efficiency support grant.

“The overall funding situation has meant we’re forced to increase our share of the council tax by just under two percent. It’s not a decision we’ve taken lightly but the increase is less than inflation and equivalent to just an extra 7p a week for most residents. This increase will help us maintain services for local people.

“At the same time as achieving a responsible, balanced budget we’ve also made important decisions that will have a major impact not only on the quality of people’s lives, but also boost Burnley’s economic prospects and create extra jobs.”

But the move was attacked by the Liberal Democrat member for resources Coun. Margaret Lishman who put forward an amendment to freeze council tax.

The Lib Dem proposal would have meant closing Towneley’s nine hole golf course, reducing Ward Opportunities Funding while introducing a Democracy Education Programme, which would see councillors going into schools.

But Coun. Townsend hit back saying: “You are the last ones we’ll be taking lessons from. You did zip while you were in power.”

Coun. Townsend also criticised the Conservative budget amendment which proposed to freeze funding for Targeted Family Support and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

He said: “The Tory plan to withdraw funding for families and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau is absolutely scandalous. It attacks the needy in our borough.”

Both the Lib Dem and Conservative amendments were defeated in a vote.

See Tuesday’s Express for more detail from the meeting.