IT’S official – Wearsiders will be paying the lowest council tax in Tyne and Wear after councillors signed off a rates freeze for the second year in a row.
Members of Sunderland City Council have also approved a £60million investment programme which council leaders say will give Wearside a boost.
The financial package comes after council chiefs had to stomach £28million in Government funding reductions for 2012/13 – on top of the £58million cut from last year’s budget.
Speaking at the opening of yesterday’s budget meeting, council leader Paul Watson said: “We are proposing a revenue budget which is true to our principles, follows through on our commitments to our residents and includes – for the second successive year – a council tax freeze, recognising the difficulties heaped upon our residents by this disgraceful Coalition Government.
“I am proud to say that our council tax is the lowest in the region and this reflects our continued drive to do all we can to deliver high-quality services which provide good value for money for our residents.”
Coun Watson said the council had not only been faced with “unprecedented” budget reductions, but a series of other challenges in the coming years.
He said these included changes to the business rates which could leave Sunderland with less cash, reforms to the welfare system, the localisation of council tax benefit and the transfer of public health responsibilities to the council.
But he said the authority was still doing its best for employees and residents, avoiding a mass redundancy programme while protecting front-line services and supporting Wearside’s most vulnerable people.
Coun Watson and his Labour councillors also praised the council’s £60million investment programme.
He said: “This reflects our ambition for the city, our can-do approach to investment and our increasingly commercial approach in using our resources to catalyse and lever wider funding into our city.
“Our success in securing the funding for the New Wear Crossing demonstrates how we can make a powerful case for continued investment in the city with both Government and the private sector.”
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