Swansea Lib Dems lay down tax freeze challenge
A CHALLENGE to freeze council tax has been laid down by Swansea Lib Dems.
Last year their administration decided against putting up the rate and members are calling on the now Labour-led council to follow suit for 2013/12.
However, the ruling party hit back, saying the decision not to increase it last year put the authority on the back foot financially.
The issue was raised by Lib Dem Councillor Jeff Jones at a full meeting of Swansea Council as part of members questions.
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At the meeting, he attempted to hand out a list of rises since 1997/98, but he was not allowed.
However, cabinet member for finance Rob Stewart said "realistically" the rise should be at least 1.5 per cent.
Labour was in power in Swansea between 1996 and 2004.
In that time the lowest council tax rises were 3.5 per cent (1999/2000) and 4 per cent (2001/02) and the highest were 12.6 per cent (2000/1) and 14.9 per cent (1998/99), according to the Liberal Democrats.
Comparatively, between 2004 and 2012 when the Liberal Democrats led the administration the rises were between 0 per cent and 4.45 per cent.
Mr Stewart said there were reasons for the previous Labour council rises.
"If you look into the figures," he said, "it was used to raise the salaries of teachers and other social care workers.
"It was a commitment of the Labour Government to address levels of pay in public service.
"I have no issues with levels, it was for teaching and education: the things we care about.
"When it comes to presenting the budget I will be emphasising and highlighting some of the errors and misunderstandings the previous administration made in the past eight years.
"There will be new hope for Swansea in the budget."
Mr Jones said the a decision to freeze the tax was endorsed by auditors.
Following the meeting, Mr Jones said: "It's important that we put people before politics once more. Council tax payers are already hard pressed and even the Labour local government minister has asked local authorities to set a 0 per cent council tax.
"We cannot put on additional burden on council taxpayers so that Labour can fund pet projects that will do nothing to tackle poverty, a council tax increase will make the hardship worse."
Opposition leader Chris Holley added: "We left the council finances in good order and the council has had a reasonable settlement from the Welsh Government it should be possible to freeze council tax once more this year with a political will and some imaginative thinking."