Tax frozen for a sixth year

FOLLOWING the completion of the budget the local authority has announced that council tax has been frozen for a sixth year.

Band D council tax will remain at £1,072, excluding water charges, for 2012/13.

Speaking after the council meeting on Thursday, Councillor Mark Salmond, finance spokesperson, said the Angus Alliance budget invested record amounts in the county’s infrastructure, delivered savings through greater efficiency, and offered a new level of support for community initiatives.

Mr Salmond said: “This is a budget that guarantees Angus’ future.

“We listened to residents views from the recent budget consultation, protecting frontline services, such as education, when making difficult savings choices and investing money where it delivers greatest value in our communities.”

Savings of £24 million have now been delivered in the five Angus Alliance budgets, half of which has come from cashable efficiencies, including the £6.3 million package of savings decided at the meeting.

Almost 700 people responded to the council’s budget questionarrie and many supported the council’s savings approach of improving efficiency, reducing staffing costs, more focused services and increased income along with most of the service specific savings proposals.

However, residents opposed a reduction in the number of visiting specialist teachers in primary schools and the slowing down of road maintenance, so these proposals were dropped and did not feature in this year’s budget.

Mr Salmond continued: “In fact, overall funding for roads maintenance has been increased.

“We have maintained the record £15.4million investment in the county’s roads infrastructure and this year £1.5million of that is earmarked to accelerate the permanent treatment of potholes.”

A new funding total of £180,000 has been ear-marked for additional road sweeping and targeted gully clearing to alleviate flooding in known hot spots to help reduce the repair and maintenance bill in the longer term.

Mr Salmond said: “This continued investment in the county’s infrastructure is vital. That’s why we introduced a longer term financial planning mechanism in 2010 that allows funds to be set aside for future projects as they emerge.

“That will provide £25 million of real spending power for infrastructure projects over the next five years – that’s a real guarantee for Angus’ future.”

Mr Salmond also announced an investment of almost quarter of a million in two new ‘survive and thrive’ funds for community led events and local heritage attractions. He said: “This relatively small investment from the council will support local activity, helping community organisations bring new visitors to the area and consequently more money into the local economy – this multiplier effect will deliver investment far beyond the face value of the funds.

“Like our hugely successful community grants scheme, into which we’ve put another £100,000 this year, these new funds will empower communities by helping local organisations to survive and thrive.”

Speaking in support of the budget, council leader Bob Myles said: “The prudent approach adopted by the Angus Alliance, which has included paying off £700,000 of debt every year since we took charge, has allowed us to invest in the future, to guarantee a bright future for the people of Angus. We have been able to come up with the savings required by the flat cash settlement from the Scottish Government, and still deliver the services required by residents.

“Many councils have had to embark on massive cuts and compulsory redundancies – we have not had to resort to that in Angus. This year we have again delivered as much as possible through efficiency savings - 40 per cent of departmental savings are cashable efficiency savings. Reductions in staffing costs will this year deliver £3.6 million. These measures, coupled with increased income and more focused service delivery, deliver the £6.3 million saving needed to balance this year’s budget.”