By Rachael Grealish
Following in suit with central government, Copeland Borough Council has set its budget for 2021/22.
The budget, proposed by Mayor Mike Starkie, was set at a meeting of the Council yesterday, Tuesday March 2.
In the council’s budget statement Mr Starkie has promised ‘zero service cuts’ and stated the Borough will experience the lowest increase in council tax in the county.
He said: “For the sixth consecutive year, this will be a budget that will see zero service cuts for our residents.
“This a major achievement for Copeland Council – set against a backdrop of significant financial challenges that have only intensified due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and I’d like to publicly thank our outstanding Finance team for putting this budget together.
“We are able to freeze car parking charges once again this year, and although our own costs are increasing above inflation, we will not pass these costs onto residents and limit the charges that we are increasing to inflation or lower.
“On council tax, it is important to remember that while Copeland Council collects council tax from households, we only keep around 10 per cent, with the rest being distributed to Cumbria County Council, Cumbria Police and Crime Commissioner and town/parish councils who each set their own increase annually.
“We are restricting our increase share to a lower-than-inflation 1.95 per cent, meaning that our percentage share of the council tax residents pay continues to decrease year-on-year. This is the lowest increase of all seven councils in Cumbria.”
Starkie went on to confirm ‘around £600,000’ committed to the Recycling and Waste service and went on to praise workforce’s in the area.
“We are investing significantly in our Recycling and Waste service this year, with around £600,000 extra committed to this department to help manage the vastly increased volumes of waste and recycling being generated,” he continued.
“Coupled with this investment, we will return to fortnightly garden waste collections from March (after being forced to go monthly last year due to the impacts on Covid) and we will not charge for this service, nor for replacement refuse bins.
“We have also invested significantly in our IT and Bereavement Services at Distington Hall Crematorium. This isn’t visible frontline investment necessarily, but is crucial to the continued successful behind-the-scenes operation of our key services.
“We have also invested in our workforce. The days of expensive consultants are behind us, and we are recruiting and retaining talented individuals in all our roles – and benefiting from the continuity and consistency this is bringing.
“On the subject of our staff, I would like to again publicly praise each and every member of our team for their outstanding response to the pandemic. Running hand-in-hand with our outstanding social support programme, our response has been unrivalled anywhere else in the country and this has rightly been recognised by our community.”
Lastly, the mayor spoke if the purchase of Leconfield Industrial Estate – saying it puts the council in a ‘strong position’.
“We are now in a position where we are increasing our asset base and value with the purchase of Leconfield Industrial Estate in Cleator Moor, the termination of the PFI of the Copeland Centre meaning that we own it outright, and other commercial purchases,” he added, “This puts us on a strong position in terms of income, regeneration and investment moving forward.”