Budget and council tax rise approved

The Council Chambers at Wigan Town Hall
The Council Chambers at Wigan Town Hall

A two per cent rise in council tax has been given the green light as Wigan borough’s budget for 2016/17 has been approved by councillors.

The ruling Labour Party’s Deal for the Future initiative - which is designed to find £60m worth of savings by 2019 - was also voted through at the town hall on Wednesday.

Leader Lord Smith said setting this year’s budget had been “challenging” but told the meeting of the full chamber “we have always tried to deliver the best we can for the people of this borough.”

The financial plans received backing from opposition and Conservative group leader Coun James Grundy but the pair clashed over whether the two per cent precept to fund adult social care should be referred to as the “Osborne Tax”.

Lord Smith had previously said the town hall had been forced to adopt the offer from the chancellor, which will mean a two per cent council tax rise ring-fenced to plug adult social care budget gaps.

The chamber was told the scheme would raise around £2m in the borough but the council is facing a £6.7m deficit in that area.

Coun Grundy dismissed claims the authority had been “forced” into the tax rise. He said: “We’re doing it because it’s the sensible thing to do.”

Adding: “It’s not as if George Osborne grabbed Lord Smith in an arm-lock and said ‘get it up that two per cent’.”

Although Coun Grundy backed the budget, he proposed two amendments to the plans; an investment fund to help the borough’s smaller town centres paid for by the council’s Manchester Airport share dividend and a bid to speed up outline plans for an Atherleigh Way bypass to ease “congestion problems on the Leigh side of the borough.”

Both were rejected by the Labour group but Lord Smith thanked his counterpart for his engagement with the budget and added some aspects of his proposals “would be taken on board.”