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Dundee LibDem Finance Convener successfully moves freezing of Council Tax levels in Dundee

February 20, 2007 7:30 PM
Cllr Fraser Macpherson, Dundee's Finance Convener

Fraser successfully moves freezing of Council Tax levels in Dundee

Dundee City Council has tonight (Tuesday 20th February) frozen its council tax for the 2007/08 financial year. The Band D figure will remain at £1 211 for the second year running.

City Council LibDem Finance Convener Councillor Fraser Macpherson said: "As a result of effective financial management we have been able to deliver a budget that freezes council tax as well as maintaining council services.

"This year's freeze builds on experience over several years where our objective has been to keep any council tax increase to a minimum. Since 1999/2000, Dundee City Council has had the second lowest cumulative increase of all 32 councils in Scotland."

Fraser's full budget speech:

DUNDEE CITY COUNCIL - BUDGET SPEECH 2007/08

Before presenting the Administration's Budget and Council Tax proposals for 2007/08, I would like to highlight some of the achievements of this Administration over the past 4 years.

There has been a sustained improvement in the collection of Council Tax. In 2005/6, almost 91% of tax was collected in the year for which it was due, up 3.6% from the previous year and for the fourth year running the figure has improved. Collection for the current financial year is set to exceed last year's level.

We have made it easier for people to pay rent and Council Tax, with over 60 Paypoint outlets across the city, including post offices, supermarkets, newsagents, convenience stores and service stations.

During 2005/06, the Council maintained and improved performance on 63% of its statutory performance indicators. On 20 indicators, performance improved by over 5%. Independent improvement ratings compiled by Audit Scotland placed Dundee 3rd out of all 32 Scottish authorities.

Results from the 2006 Annual Consumer Survey showed across-the-board improvements to the Council's customer care and public image results.

Dundee has continued to enhance its reputation as Scotland's recycling city, with the percentage of waste recycled remaining above the national average and well above the other major cities.

The Council has worked in partnership with the Tenants Federation to achieve approval of a Delivery Plan which will see the investment of almost £200 million in improvements to council houses to meet the Scottish Housing Quality Standard by 2015. Housing services are to be delivered from two new district offices, which will also locate contact centres dealing with lettings and rent recovery in a more efficient and streamlined way.

The first phase of the Central Waterfront Project, the Western Road realignment, was completed during 2006 and the second phase, the Dock Street Rail Tunnel strengthening, is under way. The overall project will involve an investment of £270 million from the public and private sector over the next decade.

Major extensions and refurbishments of Forthill Primary School and St John's High School were completed during 2006, creating teaching and learning environments fit for the twenty-first century.

Dundee continues to lead the way in the use of legislation to deal with anti-social behaviour. A night-time noise team and a new mobile community safety warden team were introduced to add to the range of measures already in place. The management and operation of the city's community warden scheme has been chosen by the Scottish Executive as an example of best practice.

The DUNCAN crime-fighting project also extended its successful city centre operation into local communities across the city.

Meanwhile, the Council achieved a 27% reduction in young offenders against a target of 10%.

Nearly £1.8 million of extra community care money is being invested in an expansion of care services for older people, including intensive home-care support and extra residential and nursing home places.

A new £1.6 million base for a joint service with NHS Tayside will speed up the provision of equipment such as special beds, bath lifts, shower chairs, walking aids and grab rails to people who need help in their homes.

A comprehensive set of standards have been developed for looked-after children, providing clear criteria against which practice and performance can be measured. Qualifications achieved by looked-after children in Dundee have improved at a rate considerably better than the national average.

Over 500 local families have benefited from the Working for Families project which helps unemployed parents return to work by providing access to childcare, welfare rights advice, education and training.

A Disability Equality Scheme was also launched and one example of the scheme in practice is the card-activated information at bus shelters for visually impaired people.

Dundee successfully hosted Radio 1's Big Weekend, Britain's biggest free music festival, bringing thousands of visitors here and attracting national publicity. The event and the success of the free IT access in public libraries helped the Leisure and Communities department record its highest level of attendances since records began.

A £9 million project to refurbish the McManus Galleries, generating nearly £7 million of Heritage Lottery and other external funding, is taking place and is due to be completed in 2008.

We are "Changing for the Future" with a new Customer First strategy to modernise the way we have contact with our customers. Over £20,000 a day is now being made in on-line payments through the Council's website. Over £14 million has been received since the facility to pay on-line became available.

The design for Dundee House was approved. The new offices will have greater energy efficiency, lower energy costs and reduced maintenance costs compared to Tayside House. The whole ground floor will be a first class One Stop Shop to make it easy for the public to access a wide range of council services when the office opens in 2010.

A wide range of initiatives have earned the council a large number of awards and commendations over the past year and our employees deserve our thanks for the work they have put in to gain our city national recognition on numerous occasions.

Turning now to the 2007/08 Revenue Budget, I am delighted to announce that the Administration's lobbying of Scottish Executive Ministers has paid major dividends for the City Council's finance settlement, with additional grant of £4.1 million awarded.

Following significant input by the Leader, myself and Council officers, the long-term future of Dundee Airport has now been secured. This involves the transfer of the Airport's operation to Highland and Islands Airports from September this year and will result in a net reduction in the Council's costs of nearly £1.6 million a year. This major achievement has contributed significantly to the Administration being able to avoid a council tax increase for 2007/08.

The Administration has also scrutinised the Revenue Budgets of every council department to ensure that all possible efficiencies have been made and that best value is being achieved.

There has been further large increases in energy costs and this has put even greater emphasis on implementing energy efficiency measures.

I make no apology for restating that Council Tax stability is a key strategic priority for the Administration and we remain committed to keeping increases to a minimum without compromising essential Council services. Over the 8 years to 2007/08, Dundee's Council Tax has increased by 17.1%, equivalent to an annual increase of 2.1%. The Scottish average for the same 8 year period is 35.6%, or an annual increase of 4.5%. Dundee's increase over the 8 year period is half the Scottish average and the second lowest of all 32 councils.

In recommending approval of the 2007/08 Revenue Budget, I would express my thanks to all elected members who have participated in the budget process.

I would also like to thank my fellow conveners and officers, particularly the Chief Executive and senior finance officers, for their support and advice in putting together the Revenue Budget and Council Tax for 2007/08.

Last but not least, I would like to thank our employees, whose individual and combined efforts enable us to deliver first-class services to the people of Dundee.

I now submit for your consideration, the Administration's 2007/08 Revenue Budget to set a Council Tax Band D of £1,211, a zero increase on the 2006/07 charge.

This is a tremendous achievement and one which I am proud to recommend for the benefit of Council Tax payers in the city.

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