Merton confirms council tax freeze - parties clash over budget
A rousing speech by the Merton Council leader marked the approval of the Labour budget for the next four years.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis attracted applause and cheers from members when he delivered Labour’s plans to freeze council tax for the fourth year running as long as the group is re-elected in May this year.
Opposition parties submitted their own plans for the coming year including council tax cuts and waste management schemes, but they were thrown out at the council meeting in the Civic Offices in Morden on Wednesday, March 5.
Speaking at the meeting, Coun Alambritis said: "Last year’s budget was about taking steps towards affordability.
"Tonight’s budget is about embedding affordability ...
"We are setting a pragmatic, a co-operative and enterprising and a business-like budget that our residents can afford."
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Oonagh Moulton, leader of Merton Conservative group, said: "Throughout the last four years, Labour has shown they are unable to budget.
"They have continually cut council services, not costs, whilst at the same time overcharging residents for council tax by an average of £12.5 million every year.
"That’s millions of pounds of residents’ money sitting in a council bank account during tough financial times."
All opposition proposals for alternative budgets were voted down by opposing councillors.
Merton’s UKIP leader Suzanne Evans said: "I’m not surprised the Tories didn’t vote for our proposal; although they put forward an idea for a 2.5 per cent cut in council tax.
"This would have given a rebate of £70 to those living in the wealthiest parts of the borough in the highest tax-paying band, they clearly weren’t prepared to let everyone benefit.
"It’s hardly surprising they’re branded as a party which only favours the rich."
A Merton Liberal Democrat spokesperson said: "Disappointingly - though predictably - Labour and the Merton Park Residents Association councillors voted down our proposals to protect early years funding and support for the most vulnerable in the borough."
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