Relief as council tax will be frozen in Portsmouth

The civic offices in Portsmouth
The civic offices in Portsmouth

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RESIDENTS have been given a boost after councillors agreed to freeze council tax.

Portsmouth City Council went against its original plans to raise council tax by 1.95 per cent this year following changes made to a government scheme.

Last year, ministers announced that a £700,000 council tax freeze grant would be paid to local authorities which agreed not to put bills up.

At the time, it was decided the grant would only be paid over two years, and the council decided it would make more money in the long run by increasing taxes.

But now the government has decided to give councils the amount every year and allow it to be incorporated into their budgets if they freeze tax – so the council has changed its mind.

The amendment was put forward by Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council and Lib Dem group, at a meeting of the full council yesterday.

He said: ‘We would have originally been £2.4m worse off in the third year if we accepted the council tax freeze grant.

‘The reason we have changed our minds is because the government scheme has changed.

‘It means we are able to keep the council tax low and protect services.’

The Conservative group welcomed the move as it was what it originally proposed at a budget meeting in November.

Cllr Donna Jones, Conservative group leader, said: ‘I am delighted that this year, the Lib Dems has listened to my sensible proposals and freezing the council tax.’

But Cllr John Ferrett, Labour group leader, blasted the way the new proposal had quickly been put together by the council leader – especially as the first he even knew about it was via Twitter before the meeting.

He felt the public should have been consulted, in light of cuts that have been imposed to services.

‘We found out from a person on Twitter that there would be a council tax freeze,’ he said.

‘We were told this was going to be rubber-stamping affair.

‘Now, we are being bullied into a council tax freeze, which is something we could have been consulted on. The public could have been consulted.’

Properties under tax bands A, B and C – which 87 per cent of Portsmouth residents come under – will therefore continue to pay £925.80, £1,080.10 and £1,234.10 a year, as opposed to £941.04, £1,097.88 and £1,411.56. Meanwhile, fears that a lollipop person wouldn’t be reinstated in Court Lane at its junctions with Lonsdale Avenue and Hilary Avenue, in Cosham, were alleviated.

Cllr Jason Fazackarley, cabinet member for traffic and transport, said two people had expressed an interest and were due to undergo CRB checks.