Candidate promises freeze on council tax
LABOUR'S mayoral candidate Marvin Rees has promised to freeze the city's council tax for at least a year if he is elected in November.
He said he would peg the charges at their current rate for the first 12 months and "look to freeze them" for his entire four-year term of office.
The council tax was frozen for the third year running at the annual budget meeting in February.
An average Band D homeowner has to pay £1,569.75 a year.
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Mr Rees's promise comes at a time when the city council is making the biggest cuts in its history.
And one of the first major tasks of the newly-elected mayor will be to make further cuts of £25 million in the next financial year.
Mr Rees told the Post it was understandable that people were focussed on cuts. But he said it was important not to lose sight of the fact that the council brings in nearly £1 billion a year of which some £300 million was spent annually on front line services.
He said: "What I want to do is make sure we are spending that money in the right places and make sure we are not spending money unnecessarily."
He said it was crucial to peg council tax increases because it was a form of taxation which hits the poorest people the hardest.
He said: "Bristol brings in hundreds of millions of pounds and how that money is managed shapes the city. One of the key definitions of this election is how the city is shaped afterwards."
The Government has announced that councils can raise council tax by up to two per cent during the next financial year from April, 2013.
Earlier this month, it was revealed that the council would have to cut an extra £25 million from its civic budget which is on top of the £70 million in budget savings which were announced two years ago.
About £55 million of the total £95 million cuts have already been made and which has led to hundreds of council job losses.
The council's budget for the next two years has been revised because the Government has made changes to the council tax benefit system which has left a shortfall of £5 million, reduced the city's academy funding by £2.5 million and scrapped a grant which enabled the council to freeze the council tax and which was worth £4.5 million.
Mr Rees said: "My plan for Bristol doesn't include big spending commitments and I will prioritise the expenditure to support my promises to Bristol – securing Bristol's future on the world stage, tackling poverty and inequality and getting more people engaged in shaping our city.
"I will not allow the hard-earned money of taxpayers to be wasted and I will work with council officers to reduce spend in all non-service areas."
One of these areas that Mr Rees was referring to was the council's consultancy charges which in 2011 amounted to £4.2 million.
He said: "We also need to plan to work in new ways. Our economic development plan will prioritise bringing business to Bristol, increasing the share of business rates in our overall revenue."
The election for the new mayor takes place on Thursday, November 15 and the result is expected the following day.