Knives out over council tax rise

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Politicians are at loggerheads over council tax in the latest in a series of bitter rows between local Conservative and Labour parties.

Tories blasted the Labour-led Lancaster City Council’s plans to raise tax by 2% in 2013/14 after a fiery town hall meeting which divided the council; the final vote being 26 to 25 in favour of an increase.

Coun Eileen Blamire, council leader, said the rise was necessary because of economic pressures.

“We have frozen council tax for the last two years to help all households in the short term,” said Coun Blamire. During this time we have focused on making 
big efficiency savings in a drive to protect front line services.

“Making further reductions and efficiencies will not be easy. Services are stretched to capacity.

“The outlook is incredibly bleak as we have been told that Government funding will fall dramatically over the next couple of years.

“We therefore need to do what we can now, to protect our income base for the future.

“We recognise that this will add some pressure to households and we need to stress that the increased amounts will be comparatively small.”

Coun Peter Williamson, Tory leader, said: “Once again it will be hard-pressed families and pensioners who will be asked to fund this unnecessary tax rise.

“The council should be tightening its belt just like everyone else in these tough economic times.’

The Tory and Labour groups had a high-profile falling-out in December over the Chatsworth Gardens affair.

Labour councillor Ron Sands accused David Morris MP of being “unsporting” when he criticised city council officers over their handling of West End housing regeneration plans.

Mr Morris then accused Labour of “scaremongering” over the future of the Royal Lancaster Infirmary Accident and Emergency department.