BANKRUPTCY could be the fate awaiting a local authority if its Tory leaders freeze council tax again, their Labour opponents have claimed.
The warning emerged as South Derbyshire District Council’s finance committee prepared to recommend its element of the 2013-14 charge to full council on March 4.
“We could be bankrupt,” said Labour group leader Kevin Richards, railing against Tory plans for what his party said would be the fourth year of freeze.
“The last thing I want to see is this authority having no money whatsoever.”
He spearheaded Labour attacks on the Tories for ignoring the recommendation of the authority’s scrutiny committee – including Tory chairman Amy Plenderleith and Neil Atkin – for a 1.9 per cent increase.
Councillor Richards spoke after considering a report which said the authority had agreed to save £300,000 a year from 2013-14 to plug a financial black hole opened partly by the cumulative effect of freezing council tax.
“It’s a fait accompli. It’s a zero per cent council tax rise, it’s redundancies,” he said.
“That’s the only way we will save £300,000.
“We all know it’s job losses, whether it’s voluntary or compulsory.”
Labour anger was further heightened by a recent decision of the council’s policy committee to increase council house rents by an inflation-busting 5.6 per cent, or £4 per week.
Castle Gresley ward member Gordon Rhind said: “There’s nobody on this side going to support council tenants subsidising the rest of the population of South Derbyshire.”
But the Tories hit back, leader Bob Wheeler insisting they were now more confident that ‘efficiency savings can be delivered to enable a council tax freeze’.
“We want to maintain services and deliver them as efficiently as possible,” he said.
John Lemmon, who represents the Etwall ward for the party, said: “The savings can be made without subsequent staff losses based on what has happened in the recent past.”
Council staff had increased by 20 under their control, the Tories said.