Great Britain

Middlesbrough residents set for near 4 per cent rise in council tax

Senior councillors have approved Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston’s budget after he struck a deal with Labour to remove unpopular cuts.

Andy Preston had faced resistance to his proposed budget, which included cut lollipop patrols and scrap weekly bin collections in the town.

But the independent mayor had always said he would listen to residents and as a result launched a huge consultation which has seen more than 1,000 people respond.

And after striking a deal with Middlesbrough’s 20-strong group of Labour councillors, Mr Preston has now presented a new budget which drops the unpopular cuts to services.

But to make up the difference, residents will now face a 3.99 per cent council tax rise under the new plans – more than the two per cent increase on bills previously proposed by the mayor.

Presenting the new proposals to Middlesbrough Council’s Executive yesterday, strategic director for finance, governance and support services, James Bromiley, said: “This report has changed as a result of the consultation that we’ve run since November and December when the proposals were first brought forward.

“The mayor said very clearly that he wanted to have a far expanded consultation process this year and you can see that we were successful in achieving that through a variety of media including social media and also public meetings, online responses and direct emails.

“We had a total of 1,157 responses to the consultation which we have then analysed and taken forward as part of the budget proposals.”

Mr Bromiley said that as a result of the consultation and discussions a number of previously mooted savings had been removed.

These included plans for charging extra for green waste, planned changes to democratic services and – perhaps most importantly – controversial plans to axe certain school crossing patrols.

Plans for fortnightly bin collections were deferred meaning that although these won’t come in this year, the council will look at reintroducing this possibility at a later date.

But the changes didn’t come for free.

“Partly as a result of removing those savings but also in part as a result of a worsening financial situation that we’ve had, I’ve then needed to recommend to the mayor and politicians that we increase the required council tax by 3.99per cent,” Mr Bromiley said.

There were no questions from Executive members following Mr Bromiley’s announcement and the mayor’s final budget proposals were agreed unanimously.

The mayor now needs a simple majority of councillors to get his budget approved by the full council.

With 20 members, Labour is the largest single group in Middlesbrough Council chamber.

And with Labour having already agreed terms with the mayor, Mr Preston can now rely on their votes as well as the votes of his executive team of seven, plus his own vote ahead of ratification by the full council.

Given that one member of the Executive is a Conservative, it is also likely that the council’s only other Tory will vote in favour, given that is has already been approved by his colleague.

Add to that the likely support of Middlesbrough Independent Group’s eight members, and a majority now looks certain for Mr Preston even if all 15 members of Middlesbrough Independent Councillors Association voted to reject.

The full council will vote on the budget on Wednesday, February 26.