Dudley council tax payers facing £50 hike in bills
Council tax in Dudley will rise by 4.49 per cent meaning bills could go up by around £50 a year after the plans were backed.
Dudley Council argued out the budget at their full council meeting on Monday night after the opposition Conservative authority put forward an amendment to the Labour-run authority's plans.
Row intensifies over travellers transit site
The amendment heavily focused on the controversial travellers transit site – with the Tories calling for the £600,000 over three years for strengthening environmental enforcement in relation to unauthorised traveller encampments not to be approved.
They also urged cabinet to continue with the development of a transit site at Budden Road, in Coseley, or an alternative site.
Councillor Shaun Keasey said: "Concrete bollards won't solve the problem of travellers, it will just move it again, again and again and the council bill gets bigger and bigger. The £600,000 for the next three years is just a blank cheque.
"The only way to solve this issue is a transit site."
Councillor Joe Roberts said: "It's clear local residents want action on travellers but don't want their parks looking a mess. We all know the only way to do this is by installing a travellers site – concrete blocks don't work."
But Councillor Keiran Casey, cabinet member for housing and residents welfare, hit out at the amendment branding it 'quite frankly ridiculous'.
He said: "The last administration and their so called plan for traveller encampments was completely inadequate. We have got £150,000 in the budget for preventative meaures. What I find ridiculous is their amendment would be to take that away.
"You can't take money away and then demand we put preventative measures in. They have stopped us from sorting this out."
It came down to a vote with 36 voting for the amendment and 36 against it – leaving the decision at the Tory Mayor's casting vote, which carried the amendment through.
After the amendment was carried, the 72 councillors unanimously voted to approve the budget – seeing council tax rise by 4.49 per cent, which bosses said will still see Dudley residents paying the lowest council tax rate in the West Midlands.
Council tax rise 'unfortunate but necessary'
Former Tory cabinet member for finance, Councillor Steve Clark, said the increase in council tax was 'unfortunate but necessary' in the budget.
The increase will include 2.99 per cent increase in the basic rate of council tax with a further 1.5 per cent increase going directly to adult social care services. The basic rate rise equates to less than £1 extra a week on most properties.
Councillor Pete Lowe, cabinet member for finance, added: "This budget puts the people of this borough first and prioritises the most vulnerable in our community.
"No authority wants to increase council tax but it is essential to help maintain high quality services for borough residents who, despite the rise, will still be paying the lowest rate in the Black Country and one of the lowest in the country.
"Residents can be assured that we will be also continuing our work to press the government for fair funding to make sure public services are adequately funded.”
Monday's budget meeting also revealed that meeting on the future of a travellers site between both parties is agreed for Thursday and free swimming is to be rolled out for children in the borough during school holidays.