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Mersey councils set their tax bills.

Byline: BY PAULA OWENS and ALAN WESTON Daily Post Staff

TWO Merseyside local authorities last night agreed their council tax budgets for next year.

In Sefton, bills will rise by 4.29% in April, while Wirral council taxpayers face an increase of 4.18%.

At Sefton's council meeting held last night at Southport town hall, just one proposal was put forward, signed by all three political group leaders and unanimously accepted.

It was the first time all parties had worked together in 21 years of Sefton being a hung council.

It means the average band D household yearly bill will increase to pounds 1,341.66 from pounds 1,286.47.

The figures include individual annual demands from Sefton council, the police (pounds 85) and the fire service (pounds 38.50) but not the parish council precepts, which have still to be set.

Sefton Council leader Cllr.

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

"It shows that, with goodwill on all sides, councillors can bury their differences and work together as a team in the best interests of all our residents and speak with one voice."

He added: "Adetailed valuefor- money efficiency drive is under way throughout the council and we are exploring all kinds of options in our search for deep savings to keep the council tax down."

Conservative party leader Paula Parry said: "We started off this year all doing our own version but, with up to pounds 5.2mto find, we were fairly limited. Cooperation was necessary and was achieved in good spirits.

"We've already got to find between pounds 7mand pounds 8m next year. It's not going to be easy at all.

"One of our difficulties is the amount we get from the Government. Per head in Sefton, we get pounds 389, while in Liverpool they get pounds 677 and in Knowsley pounds 731." Labour Party leader Dave Martin said: "Inmy 14 years on Sefton Council, a three-party budget has never happened before. There was very little to disagree with."

At Wirral, amendments by the opposition Conservative and Lib-Dem groups that would have reversed proposed cuts in services by using council reserves were defeated.

However, Labour council leader Steve Foulkes then moved an amendment of his own, which incorporated many of the suggestions contained in the opposition groups' amendments, after a "late announcement" of extra government funds.

This reversed the pounds 200,000 cut to youth services, and the 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.

The council tax rise means the average bandDhousehold yearly bill will increase to pounds 1,329.90 from pounds 1,276.60.

Cllr Foulkes said: "The other two parties attempted to combine together to take more than pounds 600,000 from the council's balances, leaving the council's finances dangerously unstable.

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

The Conservative group leader, Cllr Jeff Green, hailed Labour's "U-turn" but said the budget would still mean cuts in social services, such as adult care.

Lib-Dem group leader Cllr Stuart Kelly said: "Wirral's residents deserve the best service we can provide and they have made it clear of late that that's not what they're getting."
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 2, 2007
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