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Tuesday, March 03, 2015

We have frozen our council tax for the sixth successive year

West Lancashire Borough Council is announcing good news for people living and working in the area as it freezes council tax for the sixth year running, and parking charges on Borough Council car parks have been frozen for the fourth successive year, along with most other fees and charges, while investing in key initiatives to help further boost the local economy.

The decisions were made at the Council meeting on 25 February 2015, when Councillors met to agree the budget for the 2015/16 financial year.

Councillor David Whittington, portfolio holder for Resources, said: “The government is reducing our funding and many costs are rising. So we are delighted to have set a budget which maintains current services to the public while investing in important schemes to enhance our town centres and further boost the local economy.”

The Council is working on a draft Economic Development Strategy which aims to help create new jobs and boost business growth, and Wednesday’s meeting approved funding so an officer can be employed to ensure the aims of the strategy are carried out.

Another boost to work the Council does to help local businesses is the decision to continue funding its business engagement officer. By working in partnership with the West Lancashire Challenge project, this person will work with businesses to encourage and support the recruitment of apprentices.

The Council has earmarked £95,000 for new CCTV cameras to help make West Lancashire an even safer place to live. West Lancs already has an extensive network of cameras which are monitored round-the-clock. The extra funding will enable new cameras to be installed in Castlehey and Tanfields in Skelmersdale and the Burscough Street area of Ormskirk.

The authority has set aside £210,000 to help with the implementation of the strategy for Ormskirk town centre. The draft strategy is currently out to public consultation and some of the new funding will provide improved signage and maps around the town centre.

A further £120,000 has been set aside to ensure the square being formed by the new Lancashire County Council youth zone going next to Skelmersdale Library, Police Station and Nye Bevan Pool is paved to the highest possible standards.

The Council is also looking to spend £30,000 on improving the entrance road to Beacon Country Park.

Council Tax

The Council Tax paid to West Lancs Borough Council for Borough Council services for the average Band D property in 2015/16 will be £183.55 per year – £3.53 a week – exactly the same as in 2009/10, 2010/11, 2011/12, 2012/13, 2013/14, and 2014/15.

Around 12% of the council tax bill comes to the Borough Council.

The total council tax includes charges from Lancashire County Council, Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service and Lancashire Constabulary. The Council Tax for some areas will also include a parish council precept.

The bills for ‘average’ Band D properties (excluding parish council precepts) are set out below. Most properties within West Lancs are in Bands A-C and so the majority of householders will pay less than the figures stated below.

                                                2014/15         2015/16          Change

West Lancs Borough Council       £183.55          £183.55          Frozen

Lancs County Council                 £1,107.74      £1,129.78         1.99% increase
Lancs Combined Fire Authority    £63.65            £64.86            1.9% increase
Lancs Police Authority                 £155.96          £159.06          1.99% increase
Total                                         £1,510.90      £1,537.25         1.74% increase

Housing

The Council is continuing with its record £65 million investment in its housing stock, with around £19 million being spent on tenants’ homes in 2015/16 alone. The works will make a huge difference to people’s lives for many years to come.

There are plans to install a further 672 kitchens and 892 bathrooms in tenants’ homes. The Council estimates that by the end of the five-year programme 3,892  homes will have new kitchens and  4,925 homes will have new bathrooms.

The Council has exciting plans to build up to 42 new homes on the Firbeck estate in Skelmersdale that will meet the requirements of modern families. Building work is due to start next year, provided formal approval for the detailed plan is granted. Works are continuing on the improvements to existing homes that are taking place as part of the Firbeck Revival project.

A total of £2.67 million has been budgeted for energy efficiency measures and heating systems. The heating programme for next year includes fuel switching 190 properties from storage heaters to energy efficient A-rated gas boilers.  This will require extension of the gas network into more areas currently off-gas and reliant on expensive electric heating.  

Other energy efficiency works will include continued insulation improvements in lofts, cavities, flat roofs and flying bedrooms located over walkways.  There will also be investment in improved heating controls and the installation of heat meters in properties where a single boiler heats more than one home.

New lifts are planned for several sheltered blocks and a potential re-modelling scheme is being considered for Evenwood Court. More details on this will be revealed during 2015/16. Smaller schemes that will benefit tenants include spending up to £80,000 on replacing balcony surfaces at homes in Little Digmoor and New Church Farm.

The Council is also continuing to employ an Energy Efficiency Officer, whose many responsibilities include giving energy saving advice to tenants, guidance and support for those receiving fuel switching measures, help with tariff and supplier switching, and energy surveys on council properties. 

The Environmental Strategy Officer post is also being continued by the Council. This staff member’s role includes helping to meet the ongoing need to help reduce Council tenants’ utility bills and secure external funding for energy related projects.

Councillor Jane Houlgrave, portfolio holder for Housing, said: “The Council continues to invest massively in its housing stock. The key driver for the budget is the tenant and Council’s spending plans reflect the things that the tenants have said are important to them.”

Further information

The Council has agreed an increase in rents of 2.2% in line with the government formula on rent rises. Income from rent will help the Council carry out the investment programme in its housing stock.

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