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Last Updated: Tuesday, 2 March, 2004, 14:04 GMT
City's pledge over council tax rise
Council tax bill
Tax-payers were consulted on where their money should be spent
Residents in Birmingham are being pledged more cash for key services - despite council tax rising by just 1.5%.

The below inflation increase was approved by councillors at the same time they agreed to a 1.36bn budget.

Council leader Sir Albert Bore told BBC News Online he puts this down to a good government settlement and efficiency savings.

He denied the low rise, down from 4.4% last year, had anything to do with the forthcoming ward elections in May.

"When you consider the Liberal Democrats proposed 1.4% and the Conservatives proposed 0%, it is a very hard thing to say that in bringing forward a 1.5% increase Labour are indulging in electioneering activity," he said.

He said tax-payers had benefited from an extra 14m announced in Chancellor Gordon Brown's pre-budget statement.

"By making a number of initial savings, doing things better and more efficiently, we have been able to fund budget pressure points out of that money without having to resort to high level council tax increases," Sir Albert said.

Councillor Albert Bore
14m coming out of the exchequer is equivalent to a very significant rise in council tax
Sir Albert Bore

"It gave us some 14m additional resource, you have to compare that with a 1% rise in council tax that will give us 2.7m.

"14m coming out of the exchequer is equivalent to a very significant rise in council tax."

Meanwhile in Telford and Wrekin, a unitary authority in Shropshire, councillors are proposing a 9.8% increase to tax-payers' bills.

A spokeswoman pointed out that residents there have the lowest council tax in the West Midlands and said the council's performance is recognised as one of the best in the region.

Councillor Sue Davis, cabinet member for resources, said: "We have thought long and hard about this year's budget, talking to local people, business and partner agencies."

She said 4.2m of government funding had been withheld from the council, meaning it was not receiving grants for some 4,000 people who receive services in the area.

"This loss of grant is equivalent to a council tax increase of more than 10%, which is greater than the council's proposed increase," she said.

"If it were not for this the council would be in a far stronger position to plan for the future and protect local services."

A final decision on the budget is expected to be made at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.

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