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MERSEY COUNCIL TAX BILLS ON THE RISE; pounds 35-plus increase in Sefton and Wirral.

Byline: By NICK COLIGAN Political Reporter

COUNCIL tax bills in two Merseyside areas will rise by at least pounds 35 this year.

Councillors rubber-stamped the new budgets for Sefton and Wirral last night.

In Sefton, the total charge for band A households will be pounds 894, including demands from the police (pounds 85) and fire service (pounds 38.50).

The new bill, supported by all three political parties for the first time in 21 years, is a pounds 36.79 rise, up 4.29 %, from last year.

Council leader Tony Robertson said: "This all-party agreement on council tax is a memorable landmark. Very few councils in the country, if any, can demonstrate this kind of constructive political cooperation.

"A detailed value-for-money efficiency drive is under way throughout the council, and we are exploring all kinds of options in our search for savings to keep the council tax down."

Conservative group leader Paula Parry said: "We started off this year all doing our own version but, with up to pounds 5.2m of savings to find, we were fairly limited."

Labour group leader Dave Martin said: "In my 14 years on the council, a three-party budget has never happened before. There was very little to disagree with."

In Wirral, the total charge for band A households will be pounds 886, also including the police and fire service demands.

The Labour group's proposal to increase bills by at least pounds 35.57, a 4.18% rise, eventually went through after challenges by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats were defeated.

Council leader Steve Foulkes slightly amended his party's plan to include suggestions by the other two groups.

This reversed a pounds 200,000 cut to youth services and a pounds 100,000 cut in the library book fund. It also committed the council to funding an extra pounds 266,000 towards inflationary costs in bin collection services, for one year only.

Cllr Foulkes claimed the other two parties' proposals would have taken more than pounds 600,000 from the council's balances, leaving its finances "dangerously unstable".

He said: "We have prevented this by proposing a compromise motion, which thankfully all three parties voted for."

In Liverpool, band A bills will be about pounds 913 a year, while Knowsley residents living in the lowest band will pay pounds 848 a year.
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 2, 2007
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