AN ESSEX council has become one of the only local authorities in the country to announce a cut in council tax in 2013.

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Tendring District Council (TDC) has revealed plans to reduce its share of council tax by 0.5% in 2013/14, despite major cuts to government grant funding.

Leader of TDC Peter Halliday said the loss in income was able to be factored into this year’s savings targets through careful financial management and ongoing efficiencies.

Overall council tax rates, which include other contributions to Essex County Council and the police, are yet to be set.

Opposition Labour councillors have accused TDC’s Tory administration of “playing politics with the council’s finances.”

This is the third year running TDC has cut its council tax. Under the proposals, a band D household would pay £147.64 for its share to the lcoal authority instead of £148.38 a year. Over three years the saving is £2.24.

The drop in income to the council is £31,400. Over three years, it is £108,470.

The cut is in sharp contrast to Colchester Borough Council which is set to increase their council tax by 1.95%.

Mr Halliday said: “It’s always been our aspiration to cut council tax. The changes to our tax base, we believe, are affordable.

“For three years running we have reduced council tax. We are doing it carefully and sensibly while protecting frontline services. We don’t want to be collecting tax unnecessarily.

“This is a token, an acknowledgement that everyone is under pressure. It’s only fair and proper we shrink the size of the council tax we collect. Every penny helps.”

He said reducing the size of cabinet in December had also helped bring in savings of £37,500 and there were possibilities to raise revenue in other ways.

“We have opportunities through the new home bonus and business rates retention scheme to protect the revenue budget as well as making necessary cuts.”

When asked if the council tax cut would affect services, he said: “If we weren’t investing in those things already that would be fair enough, but we are. We’ve committed £3million in sea defences, £700,000 in leisure facilities and continued our free parking scheme.”

Leader of the Labour opposition at TDC Ivan Henderson said the saving was not even enough to “buy a jar of coffee.”

“They are playing politics with the council’s finances and it’s going to create a black hole,” he said.

“It’s such a small amount of money for people to notice in their pockets, but it’s £30,000 to the council which could be used to assist the struggling third sector. The money could be spent on travel subsidies and crime and disorder partnerships.

“This is lost revenue to the people of Tendring. It’s irresponsible.

“The £2.24 saving for a band D household is not even enough to buy a jar of coffee.”

Responding, Mr Halliday said: “It shows the difference between our politics and their politics. We cut council tax, they increase it. There’s clear blue water between our policies which is fine. In the end the electorate will decide what they prefer.”

The plans are due to be approved at TDC’s cabinet meeting on January 23.

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