Parking charges to rise... but council tax frozen for third year
COUNCIL tax will remain frozen for Teignbridge residents but car parking charges will rise.
In setting their new budget, Teignbridge Council councillors agreed to keep the council tax rate as it currently is while exploring new ways to generate money without hampering business or scaring shoppers away.
It is the third time Teignbridge has frozen its council tax.
Councils leaders said the authority had to deal with a seven per cent cash reduction, but insisted promises made to residents to ease the pain on their own budget at this time of economic downturn would be kept.
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Deputy leader Cllr Stuart Barker, the executive member for assets and resource, told last week's full council meeting: "This is a good budget which delivers another council tax freeze.
"The business rate retention should improve our income. Our priority is the creation of jobs. This is a great budget for Teignbridge Council and for local residents."
Council leader Jeremy Christophers added: "The fundamental issue is we are facing tough decisions.
"We have a proper relationship with the business community. Jobs and homes for everyone is what Plan Teignbridge is all about. People will recognise we have taken the right decision with this budget."
The budget, which was unanimously approved, put the focus on saving money, boosting business while protecting residents from a rise in council tax.
The key points include keeping Teignbridge's portion of council tax frozen at £150.17 for a Band D property and making permanent its popular free Sunday parking scheme in many council-run car parks.
The authority will also set aside £400,000 for infrastructure investments to boost economic development, housing and promote tourism, with a further £400,000 to be added to the fund over the following two years.
The authority will also be contributing £50,000 towards Dartmoor National Park Authority's master planning and flood study in Ashburton and will find additional savings and income of £500,000, £800,000 and £900,000 over the next three years.
Car parking charges may go up by five per cent as a result.
Cllr Alan Connett, leader of the Lib Dem opposition group, while supporting the budget, said his group would support anything which put Teignbridge first.
He said: "We will support it when it's right and we will say so. If it's not we will not and we will say so too.
"Many of the details could have been aired out in the open instead of the secretive ways it was done.
"Perhaps this budget hides things this council would rather we didn't know. We were told this was a measured budget proposal in response to the difficult times we face. It is in fact a set of disjointed ideas."
Cllr Connett said Teignbridge Council had slipped down the recycling national league table.
He added: "This Conservative administration is managing the decline, but failing to make any improvement.
"The cuts the residents want to see are in the running of the administration not cuts to necessary services."
He said the chief executive should not be replaced if the post became vacant, but instead the £150,000 salary ought to be used for more vital services.
After the meeting he said: "Not appointing a chief executive would mean more funding for road sweeping, drain and gulley cleaning and spraying pavement weeds.
"Times change and the council needs to decide what's more important."
The council's ruling Conservative administration is looking to shake-up its structure which Cllr Connett said was expected to be unveiled when the decision-making executive meets next month.
Cllr Mike Hocking said the budget was 'woolly' and fellow Lib Dem councillor David Cox expressed his concern about the rise in car parking charges and the 'zealousness' the authority was pursuing car parking fines with the use of bailiffs.
He said: "If we are over zealous in our parking enforcement approach we will wring the neck of the goose that lays the golden egg."
Despite some dissenting voices, all 46 councillors voted in favour of the new budget.