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Council tax is set to rise by nearly five per cent as local authorities face a funding gap of £40m.

Local Democracy Reporter JOSEPH TIMAN reveals which services and new projects the council will fund in future years.

Bury Council was expected to set its budget for the next financial year at the town hall last night.

After cumulative cuts of £102m since 2010, the council, which now works together with the health commissioner, still faces a multi-million-pound funding gap in its budget for the years ahead.

Bury households are now expected to face a 4.66 per cent hike in their council tax bill from April, including a £24 increase for Band D properties set by the Mayor of Greater Manchester .

But the ruling Labour group has promised to continue protecting the most vulnerable while frontline services are under threat.

Proposals put forward by Labour include an extra £150,000 for children and community centres, £100,000 for projects to combat loneliness and a £17m pledge to tackle the climate emergency.

A £100,000 care leaver fund will be set up to help remove barriers young people who grew up in care face in their daily lives.

There will also be a £50,000 made available to run a trial aimed at helping those in areas of highest deprivation who are struggling to manage with benefit reforms and often under-utilise their benefit entitlements.

The council’s cabinet member for finance, Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, said: “These set of proposals are an essential part of our aim to protect the most vulnerable members of our society from the continued brutal austerity being obsessively pursued by the Conservatives. Despite these tough times, we will always do what we can to help those who need it the most.”

Council leader and former police inspector, Cllr David Jones, was also expected to announce a 50 per cent reduction in council tax for those who volunteer as special constables in Bury.

He said: “Where better than Bury – home of Robert Peel, the founder of the modern-day police service – to announce we are doing this scheme. Our Special Constables are a vital part of the police service in Bury and indeed, across the whole country. And they do it for no pay. That is why we wanted to show our gratitude and offer them this token of our appreciation.”

Cllr Jones also defended Labour’s record in power, saying it is delivering on the party’s manifesto pledges.

This includes £400,000 for a 3G football pitch and better changing facilities in Radcliffe, £200,000 on more measures to tackle fly-tipping hotspots and litter and £670,000 to promote the council’s physical activity strategy”, which would aim to improve much of the borough’s outdoors facilities, parks and green spaces.

An additional £500,000 has been earmarked for Radcliffe regeneration projects, £400,000 to draw up a town plan for Ramsbottom and address issues there, and £120,000 to support events during Bury’s year as town of culture in Greater Manchester.

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There will also be two new posts created to address housing issues, one to help further reduce the amount of empty properties in the borough and one to create an “ethical lettings agency” in collaboration with Six Town Housing.

Cllr Jones added: “At a time when there is such distrust with politics and politicians, we wanted to show that we were different, that we did what we said we would do.

“Since launching our manifesto, we’ve ticked off plenty of pledges but now we have been able to uphold our promise on even more of them. Whether it is more action on litter and fly-tipping or getting more investment in our towns like Radcliffe and Ramsbottom, I’m proud to say we have delivered on it in this budget.”

The Labour group was also expected to announce a multi-million pounds set of proposals to help address the climate emergency which it declared last summer, committing the local authority to become carbon neutral by 2030.

It is hoped that this funding will also help improve air quality and empower the community to take action themselves.

Where the cash is set to be spent:

  • £500,000 to fund a two-year tree planting programme, which would be able to plant about 5,000 semi-mature trees and 10,000 tree whips across the borough.
  • £600,000 to create a Community Climate Capital Fund. This will provide local community groups the much-needed one off funding for projects linked with carbon neutrality, renewable energy and biodiversity.
  • £240,000 to support the new “Green Township Forums” that were proposed in the Climate Emergency motion. These forums will provide the space, and now the resource, for residents, elected members, community groups, schools and businesses to work together on local green initiatives. The Council will also fund a “Citizens Assembly” on Climate Change.
  • £5,500,000 investment in an LED streetlight rollout. Not only will this save the Council money on energy costs, it will contribute to reducing the Council’s carbon footprint even further than they already have, down by over 40% in the last 10 years.
  • £10,000,000 on replacing the Council’s fleet of vehicles with clean air compliant technology.

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Other plans include the funding for more electric vehicle charging points, a new electric vehicle trial programme aimed at local businesses, money to purchase and use a Glyphosate alternative in tackling weeds across the borough, the introduction of a dedicated cycling and walking officer to produce ambitious new schemes as part of the Beelines initiative and a green spaces officer to support the community in delivering on local green schemes.

Cllr O’Brien said: “This is the single biggest investment the council has made in protecting and promoting our environment. It is absolutely necessary that we take this action now, the climate emergency means we cannot wait any longer.

“I am therefore pleased we have been able to respond as comprehensively as we have. More still needs to be done, and we hope to use our citizens assembly to help draw this out, but we wanted to send a very clear message that the Labour Party in this borough is prepared to act.

“A lot of this money will quite rightly be spent on proposals where we work in partnership with environmentally focused organisations, our residents and the wider community. In an emergency, you are far better all working together than trying to do everything yourself.”

The focus on the Climate Emergency comes at a time when the borough has just suffered more devastating floods. In response to this latest round of flooding, the council leader highlighted that Labour had “fought tooth and nail” for flood defences since the Boxing Day floods in 2015 and went as far to commit £2,000,000 of council reserves towards the proposed scheme.

The successful lobbying efforts resulted in a scheme being funded and partially constructed when the latest floods hit. Cllr Jones said: “Without the partial flood defences in place we would have seen devastation like 2015 again, if not worse. I am proud that we led the campaign right down to Westminster to demand that our Borough got the flood defences we needed. I am also glad that we are spending more money in the coming year to clean more gullies and culverts and combat localised flooding issues.”

The budget announcements included an additional £200,000 for a “Climate Change Resilience Fund” to address these issues.

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