By Andrew Topping, Local Democracy Reporter
Councillors unanimously backed plans to freeze Mansfield District Council’s portion of council tax from April.
The authority had previously planned to increase the tax by 1.99 per cent – the maximum rise allowed before it must call a referendum – but then received a “higher than expected” grant sum from the Government.
The higher grant came mostly in the form of the New Homes Bonus, a sum given to the authority to recognise the number of new houses created and the number of disused properties brought back into use.
It meant the authority decided it was able to freeze its precept for the upcoming year, with the grants plus extra savings helping to claw back a £1.3 million financial black hole without increasing residents’ bills.
Other incomes from the budget will include an increase in rent, a rise on market stall fees, a new trade glass collection service and a one-off use of £100,000 in reserves.
The budget for 2022/23 was approved in various stages during the full council meeting on Tuesday (January 25).
Speaking during the meeting, some councillors praised the Labour-led administration for putting together a balanced budget and managing to freeze council tax precepts.
Councillor Mick Barton (Mans Ind), the leader of the opposition group, had initially planned an alternative budget when council tax was due to rise but scrapped the plans following the amended grant figures.
Speaking on council tax, he said: “You seem to have ticked every box we were concerned about, so congratulations.
“It’s very sensible what you have done and I will give praise where it’s due.”
But he raised concerns with the 4.1 per cent increase in council tenants’ rents and the 7.1 per cent rise in market stall holders’ rents proposed by the Labour cabinet, among other items listed in the large document.
“I will be supporting the budget, but I just have a few gripes with a few things I was surprised to see in there,” he added.
Cllr Robert Elliman (Con), who represents Oakham ward, also praised the council tax freeze but said the credit lies with the Government.
He said: “I will be supporting this as ultimately, whilst I don’t agree with the constituent parts, in the end, we end up with a nil [council tax] increase for residents.
“In the main, this is thanks to an increase in the Government grants.”
The freeze means residents will not pay the authority more in council tax from April this year. Band A properties, which make up 55 per cent of all homes in the district, will continue to pay £129.81 to the council for the year.
Cllr Craig Whitby (Lab), portfolio holder for corporate and finance, spoke in the meeting about how the freeze was the “right decision” for residents.
But he criticised the Government for offering a one-year grant settlement when the council must provide a three-year financial plan, stating the authority is “at the begging bowl waiting for the Government to give us money”.
He added: “[The council tax freeze] is not a decision taken lightly, as the cumulative effect of freezing this income is damaging to future revenue.
“However, we are acutely aware of the cost of living crisis residents are facing and this is the right decision at the right time.”
The authority’s decision only affects its own portion of council tax, with Nottinghamshire County Council, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Fire Authority yet to set their precepts for 2022/23.
About 72 per cent of council tax bills go to the county council, with the remainder split between lower-tier councils and the emergency services.