'Steady as we go' budget backed
Campaigning for county council elections began yesterday as Devon County Council froze its council tax for the third successive year.
Coalition partners the Liberal Democrats and Labour members clashed with the ruling Tories amid claims the authority is spending £1 million each year on "PR, media and spin."
The Conservative council – which collects 75% of all council tax bills in the county – has set its annual budget for 2013/14 at £521 million.
This is a reduction of £14 million from last year and will leave its share of bills for a Band D property unchanged at £1,116.36.
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Alternative plans by the opposition Liberal Democrats to scrap "stealth taxes" such as a "tip tax" at recycling centres were rejected by the large Tory majority in the chamber. The proposals, along with Labour plans to introduce a "living wage" were dismissed by council leader John Hart as opposition manifestos ahead of county council elections in May.
Mr Hart described the spending plan as a "steady as we go" budget, which was "good for the people of Devon".
"It is a balanced budget – good for children's services and we are preparing for the welfare reform changes that are coming," he told a meeting yesterday.
"A council tax rise of just 1.98% in four years is unique for Devon and something we should be proud of."
Critics accused the council of "ducking the big issues" and producing a plan which would see council services "wither on the vine".