Dec 24 2012 By Carl Gavaghan
EVERYONE in the borough got an early Christmas present as councillors froze council tax for a further two years.
Hillingdon Council met on Thursday night last week and approved the measure.
But the move is likely to trigger fierce criticism from Labour next month, as the ruling Conservative group gears up to implement a budget which would include £12.8m in savings in 2013/14.
Any perceived threat to services for groups regarded as vulnerable is sure to draw the fire of Labour opposition.
This will be the fifth and sixth consecutive years where the council has chosen not to increase the tax burden on residents.
The final budget will be agreed and implemented by the council in February.
Council leader, Councillor Ray Puddifoot, told the Gazette it was one of the most difficult budgets he had worked on.
He said: “Once again the money we will be receiving from the Government is going down, and it would have been very easy for us to pass this on to the residents to offset this.
“However – without wanting to sound like a politician – we do put our residents first, and we know that the economy is not in a good shape so it would be very unfair to put the council tax up.
“We are on very solid ground here at the council as we saw this storm [over the economy] coming, and managed to get our house in order, so we are well placed to be able to move forward.”
The budget will include an extra £3m committed to improving highways and footpaths in the borough, as well as the creation of a dedicated litter collection team for the borough’s parks.
Mr Puddifoot said the nearly £13m saving would be made mainly from administration and better use of resources.
He said: “Over the last three years we have reduced the running costs of the council by £60m and I don’t think anyone can say they have seen a reduction in the front line services we offer, and that is what we aim to continue doing.”
Peter Curling, leader of the Labour group at the council, stressed that the budget was still only at the draft stage and said his fellow councillors were still examining the fine detail in the proposals.
He said: “The council has cut pretty much all the waste in the last few years so I do worry about where the savings will come from in this budget.”
n Can the council afford to freeze tax for two more years? www.uxbridgegazette.co.uk/tellus