Devon freezes its council tax for third year
Devon County Council is to draw down a £3 million Whitehall windfall after agreeing to freeze council tax for the third year running.
John Hart, leader of the Conservative-run authority, confirmed he would be proposing no change to the levy as families and pensioners are being hit by the rising cost of living.
For the third year in a row, Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles will give councils a cash bonus worth a 1% hike in council tax if they hold down the charge.
However, councils that raise the levy by 2% or higher will have to hold a local referendum to get consent for the change.
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Devon County Council has opted against generating up to £6 million from tax rises – or what a 2% increase would have brought in – and instead plumped for a freeze, for which it will receive a grant of £3 million.
The proposal will be put to the authority's budget meeting on February 21. Mr Hart said: "Everywhere you look prices are going up. But we have many pensioners living in Devon and many families trying to get by on lower incomes.
"I do not want Devon County Council to add to their burden. I believe we can deliver a budget that will maintain services while not asking our residents to pay a penny more."
He added: "Our judgement is that it is better to accept the £3 million, continue our programme of making efficiencies and saving money and not have to ask our Devon taxpayers to contribute a penny more for our services.
"We promised the people of Devon when we took over in 2009 that we would ensure they got value for money.
"We started cutting costs straight away. We froze most job recruitment, reduced our payroll without major redundancies and slashed bureaucracy and red tape. We did that whilst maintaining essential frontline services and becoming more efficient and businesslike."
Devon County Council's chunk of the council bill – which will include district, police and fire authority precepts – will stay at £1,116 from April for the average household.
Neighbouring Cornwall Council, a Tory-led coalition, is poised to shun the hand-out and is proposing a bills hike of 1.97% this year, a £25 rise to about £1,268. Both go to the polls in May during a round of local elections.