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Deputy leader defends council tax rise and calls on opposition leader to step down

The deputy leader of Gedling Borough Council was drawn into a heated debate on Council Tax after he was accused of delivering a plan that put  ‘a burden’ on taxpayers.

Cllr Michael Payne (Lab) called on councillors on Thursday, March 3, to accept a 2.89 per cent Council Tax increase, which equates to £5 extra for a Band D property – around 42p a month.

He said unprecedented government cuts – which make the authority one of the worst funded in the country – meant Gedling borough was under “incredible pressure”.

But he said an “ambitious programme” was on the table for borough residents as part of its budget, including new CCTV cameras and a brand-new Arnold Market.

Cllr Michael Adams, leader of the opposition Conservative Group, criticised the budget plans put forward by the Labour-run authority.

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He said: “We are increasing this council tax by the highest percentage before a referendum is required, in a council which has the 26th highest Council Tax Band D rate out of 303 councils.

“If we are increasing Council Tax again what benefit are the residents of Gedling getting from that? Are they getting anything new or services upgraded?”

He said he found some of the proposals on the table “a little unambitious in its target”.

He added: “The concern I have with this Gedling plan is the money has disappeared and you don’t have the ability to fulfil some of the plan.”

Cllr Payne responded with a series of points and called on Cllr Adams to give up his post as opposition leader.

He said: “How utterly disingenuous and in the gutter almost it is of you to parade around and saying that Gedling Borough Council has the highest Council Tax rate out of all authorities in England and we are 26th.

“What you don’t go on to explain to the hard-working taxpayers that pay their Council Tax through us as a billing authority is only eight per cent of Council Tax comes to Gedling Borough Council and a whopping 75 per cent goes to Nottinghamshire County Council that you are in charge of.”

He said the rest goes to the fire service and police.

He added: “What are residents in this borough getting from the small increase – a brand-new Arnold Market, they are getting investment in Gedling Country Park, additional CCTV cameras and additional investment in street cleaning and leisure centres and a council tax reduction scheme that protects 4,700 families in the borough.

“Just on Arnold Market – how dare you sit there tonight and say that there is a burden on taxpayers – the taxpayers in Gedling would not have to the foot the bill if your government got off its backside and started giving us some money from the Levelling Up funding.”

The budget for 2022/23 was passed by councillors at the meeting. An amendment made by the Liberal Democrats to provide a free bulky waste service for people under 65 with disabilities was denied.

Currently, there is a free bulky waste collection for residents over 65.

Cllr Payne said the local authority would look into the proposal but could not accept it at present as it had not been properly costed.

Some of the proposals for the year 2022/23 include:

-Three CCTV cameras (£65,000) with final locations to be determined as part of ongoing work to reduce crime and disorder.

-Colwick Rectory Play Area Refurbishment (£100,000) – a refurbishment of the play area funded by an external grant.

-St Mary’s Play Area Refurbishment (£100,000) – a scheme to refurbish a play area subject to securing suitable external funding.

-Car park resurfacing (£65,000) – A combination of resurfacing and fencing works to improve the condition of the Hallams Lane car park in Arnold and the Haywood Road South car park in Mapperley.

-Holocaust Memorial and Cherry Tree Memorial and Reflection Circle (£35,000) – a space in Gedling Country Park to allow residents to reflect upon the impact of the Holocaust and provide a Memorial and Reflection Circle to allow residents to remember residents who have lost their lives.

-Flood alleviation works (£60,000) – schemes to address flooding issues in the Bentwell Avenue lagoon and to refurbish Colwick Meadow pumps.

Some of the savings and cuts  for the next three years include:

– Plans to review the price and structure of its gym and swimming pool memberships for leisure centres in Arnold, Calverton, Redhill, and Carlton.

– A price review of Bonington Theatre, Arnold, as well as reviewing operations at the Richard Herrod Centre in Carlton. The authority also wants to increase swim school sessions.

– There are also plans for a garden waste service fee increase to generate an extra £24,000 and a review of fees at cemeteries to generate an extra £1,000.

– There are also plans for a vacancy freeze for one year.

In total, the savings will come from income generation and cuts and efficiencies totalling £545,000.

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