Keighley district householders face a council tax rise of 1.6 per cent from April after councillors voted for a budget some called “making the best of a bad situation” but which others argued asked people to pay more for less.
Although some of the more controversial proposals in the 2014/15 budget, including closing public toilets and children’s centres, were scrapped, the leader of the Labour-run Bradford authority warned that proposed government cuts could lead to the whole system of local government becoming “unsustainable”.
Up to 650 Bradford Council jobs are poised to be axed as the authority faces government budget cuts of £115 million during the next three years.
During an often-heated debate lasting more than two hours at City Hall last Thursday, councillors argued over where cuts should be made.
An alternative budget proposed by the opposition Conservative group failed to gain enough cross-party support to dislodge Labour’s plan.
The budget will see council tax rise by an average of £3 a month for most households and follows a 1.99 per cent rise last year.
Council leader Coun David Green said: “Bradford, like other northern cities and districts, has been disproportionately hit by central government cuts.
“The cuts they are making will make the idea of a local authority unsustainable in the future.
“The choices the people of Bradford are having to consider are unpalatable and damaging to the economic and social fabric of the district.
“The progress we have made over the years in schools, social care and other areas is being damaged by the slash-and-burn approach of the Department for Communities and Local Government.
“None of these proposals are ones we would make if we were masters of our own destiny.”
Coun Green said since his group first announced its budget proposals in November more than 15,000 people had taken the opportunity to have their say.
Thanks to these responses, the planned cuts of £3.2 million to the youth service over two years has been reduced to £1.45 million.
Other high-profile cuts no longer going ahead in the next 12 months include the closure of three children’s centres – including Treetops at Haworth and Daisy Chain in Silsden – and the closure of public toilets in Haworth Central Park.
Coun Green added: “Despite us finding the money to save these services, I don’t want anyone to believe us finding this money has been painless – it doesn't mean there won’t be an effect on other services and jobs.”
Conservative group deputy leader Coun Simon Cooke criticised the council for only making its final version of the budget available two days before the meeting.
He also criticised the council tax rise, adding: “We shouldn’t be charging people more money for less service.”
Liberal Democrat group leader Coun-cillor Jeanette Sunderland acknowledged it must have been difficult for the Labour group to draw up a budget in the face of such cuts, but she said: “The starting point for this budget is so far from where we would want to be and there are so many things missing from it, like the number of empty homes.”
Labour’s budget drew 53 votes for, 26 against, with six abstentions.