More rows as tax frozen

Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Borough Council
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Plans by town hall bosses in Wyre to freeze council tax for the fifth consecutive year have been unanimously backed – but tensions between councillors still threatened to boil over at a heated meeting.

Arguments between Labour and Conservative councillors rumbled on at Thursday’s Wyre Council full council meeting, despite the apparent good news for the district.

Leader of the Council’s leading Conservative group, Coun Peter Gibson, announced Wyre tax payers will continue to pay the same rate as they did back in 2010/11 – 49p per day for a band D property – for the council’s portion of council tax.

He said: “Over the five years up to and including 2015/16 we have lost £4.8m in funding which is the equivalent of 54 per cent of our grant back in 2010/2011. The reason we are able to make these cuts, without cutting back in services is because our philosophy is different, it’s not what services can we cut but what can we do more for less.

“This council recognises that we are custodians of our tax payers’ money.”

The Wyre Conservative leader also announced there had been a reduction of 53 per cent in Job Seekers Allowance in the district and unemployment levels had dropped from 9.2 per cent to 3.2 per cent over the past 12 months.

Wyre’s Labour group leader Penny Martin welcomed the council tax freeze but thought the Conservative’s business plan was “ambiguous” and “misleading”.

She said: “When we go speaking to people on the doorstep, they tell us they don’t want six or seven bedroomed houses or zero hour contracts jobs.

“We need to see more appropriate housing and quality employment. This council needs to deliver the right development in the right places.”

Coun Martin put forward a series of amendments to the council’s budget in a bid to raise “much needed revenue cash” but the proposals were rejected.

Coun Martin said it was “impossible to get her ideas across in the playground-like meeting”.

The Labour leader proposed new solar park schemes at the Marine Hall, the Civic Centre and Fleetwood Market which would supposedly generate £45,000.

Coun Alan Vincent, Resources Portfolio Holder and Deputy Leader criticised Labour’s proposals, continuously describing them as “speculative”. He said: “We had the same conversation last year about these proposals, they are mainly recycled and speculative.

“Fleetwood Market is currently in a sorry state of repairs and plans to replace it will take another 12-18 months so I don’t know how they expect to put a solar roof on top of the market.” Disputes also continued at the heated full meeting about who should foot the bill to bring back concessionary fares to trams in Fleetwood and Cleveleys.

Coun Gibson has called for Labour-run County Hall to bear the cost – thought to be around £180,000 – as he believes it is responsible for all transport costs.

He said: “Why should we foot the bill for something that we are not responsible for?

“County Hall has just received a £52m windfall but yet decide to increase its allowance by 2.2 per cent, something that Conservative members rejected.

“I don’t think tram users in Fleetwood and Cleveleys believe county councillors have their priorities in check.”

Coun Martin, speaking after the full council meeting, said she had several meetings with Coun Gibson refused about working together to bring about a plan for the return of trams, saying LCC and Wyre should contribute.

She said: “I have tried to meet up with Coun Gibson and bosses from county hall on the matter.

“It’s about getting people back on the trams who need it, especially the elderly.

“Lancashire County and Wyre councils should put some money in to fund this, but when it comes to putting their hands in their pockets, they are not prepared to do it.”