Lancashire County Council has voted to reduce council tax for the first time in more than 30 years.
Council leader Geoff Driver said that he wanted to “help the tax payers of Lancashire during difficult times”, and could afford to make a two per cent cut thanks to efficiency savings and a Government freeze grant.
The change means that a Band D household will pay £1,086.13 in 2013/14, compared with £1,108.30 currently - a saving of £22.17.
The total amount of council tax collected in 2013/14 will be £360,214,000, compared to £367,565,000, if it had been frozen.
During a four-hour budget meeting at County Hall yesterday, Coun Driver came under intense criticism from Labour and Lib Dem members, who claimed the decision was “an electioneering gimmick” that would “store up problems for the future”.
Councillor Jennifer Mein, leader of the Labour Party, said: “It’s an absolute gimmick. If he considered that this was the right thing to do, then why did he wait until 10 weeks before the election?
“It’s going to leave a big black hole for the county council in years to come.
“We are facing very difficult times ahead and we are now approaching that with one hand tied behind our backs.
“The saving will have no impact on individual families, but will have a big impact on the county council going forward.”
County Councillor Bill Winlow, leader of the Lib Dems, said: “It’s pure electioneering and wholly irresponsible.
“It will save householders 50p per week, but could lead to big increases in the future when there isn’t any money.”
Coun Driver said that the money to facilitate budget came from a £215m saving over four years in administration and bureaucracy costs, as well as £5m from treasury management savings, £10m from strategic investment reserves, and a one per cent Government freeze grant.
The capital investment budget for 2013/14 is £350.1m, and plans for the money include:
n The creation of a £5m centre of excellence for dementia sufferers in Bowgreave Rise, Garstang.
n £6m funding to create Youth Zones in every district
n £3.7m to fund 48 new PCSOs - or four for every district
n £3.3m for a training scheme to get people back to work
n £3m towards the redevelopment of the Tower Wood sports centre in Windermere for disabled children
n £1m to create ‘changing places’ toilets for people with disabilities in major centres
n £1m fot a new fleet of mobile youth centres
Coun Driver added: “We’re on the third year of a three-year budget and although we always budgeted for a tax freeze, we’ve actually managed to make more savings than we thought.
“Under Labour, there was a rise in council tax every year, and it doubled in 12 years.
“What we have done in the last four years by freezing the costs at their 2010 limit has made householders £500 better off, and left £100m in the pockets of Lancashire people to spend in the local economy.
“What’s important to note is that we haven’t cut services to do this.
“The people of Lancashire deserve support now, and we can help them by cutting council tax.”
Budget amendments by the Labour party, Lib Dems, the Green Party and independents were thrown out.