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Tax hike agreed after dramatic council meeting
THURROCK Council has narrowly managed to pass its budget after a lengthy and at times shambolic meeting last night.
Labour leader John Kent outlined the administration’s two-year plan, which sets out how the authority will deal with £12million of cuts from central Government.
All parties agreed on some Conservatives changes, but they remained divided over the issue of council tax - Labour pushing for an increase of 1.99 per cent and the Tories wanting to freeze the amount people pay.
But maverick Labour councillor Aaron Kiely threw the meeting into dissaray when he voted against his party’s tax rise and also voted against the freeze proposed by the opposition.
After a hurried 15-minute adjournment, Labour came back with a new proposal - a council tax increase of 1.98 per cent, a change of just 0.01 per cent from the original plan.
Councillors debated the issue for more than three hours before the final vote was taken.
All Labour councillors voted in favour of the budget, which will see the Band D council tax rise to £1,124.64 a year. But this time opposition Tory councillors abstained and Mr Kiely voted against.
Mr Kent said: “The budget will see Thurrock Council levying the lowest council tax of any authority in Essex - by quite some considerable margin.
“We have identified everything necessary for the 2014/15 budget as well as for the next 12 months.
“Officers and members will therefore know what has to happen, which will ensure this council has the stability and time it needs to plan for and respond to the further funding cuts we know are coming.”
Conservatives, led by Phil Anderson, outlined amendments and said the proposed rise would hit working families hard.
Mr Anderson said: “The Government has offered a grant of more than half a million pounds if Thurrock freezes council tax for another year.
“Labour are proposing to reject this offer and take an extra million pounds out of the pockets of local people by raising council tax.
“Astonishingly, this money is not planned to be spent on front line services but will put straight into our already ample reserves.”
* See next week’s Gazette for full coverage of the meeting.