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Southport Reporter® covering the news on Merseyside.

Date:- 13 March 2006

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Council tax up by 49p per week!

COUNCIL TAX for Liverpool City Council services is to go up by 3.3 per cent from April 06. This means a 49p a week rise for Band A properties, paid by the vast majority of tax payers in Liverpool.

The increase is substantially below the average tax rise being levied nationwide, expected to be 4.5 per cent. City council leader Councillor Warren Bradley said:- "We have listened very carefully to local people before agreeing this rise. They want to see improvements to services they have seen over recent years continue, but they also want to see a tight rein kept on the council's finances.

We have achieved this. We have kept the council tax increase to a minimum, we are saving £6.3 million through an efficiency drive and at the same time protecting services such as educating our children and looking after the elderly.

We are investing extra cash to improve services that the public has told us are a priority. All youngsters under 17 will be able to apply for a FREE pass to use the city's sports, leisure and fitness centres. This will help young people keep fit, develop their talents and give them something positive to do with their time.

Recycling is another priority. We will be piloting a comprehensive doorstep collection service to vastly improve our recycling rates, with the aim of rolling out the new service throughout the city.

And we are launching a radical new plan to give local communities a greater say in the services that affect their lives. In future, local people will decide the priorities for their area - from everything from community safety measures, and street cleansing to highway repairs and maintenance of parks and open spaces.

This will mean over the next three years millions of pounds being spent by local neighbourhood committees, made up of local councillors and community representatives. They are the best people to decide on local priorities."

The improved recycling service will cost an additional £250,000 and free leisure passes for young people £170,000. The city council is also increasing its contribution to the Liverpool Culture Company by a further £1 million to a total of £9.6million next year, as the city gears-up to the Capital of Culture celebrations in 2008.

£253 million is to be paid directly to the city's 184 schools. In a prudent measure recommended by the Audit Commission, the council has again increased its working balances, which will be at their highest ever level of £7million, at the end of the financial year.

The levy for Police services is to rise by 5 per cent for 06/07, and 3.6 per cent for Fire and Rescue services. The total increase for all council services and levies next year is 3.6 per cent.

Councillor Keith Turner, the executive member for resources, said:- "We have worked incredibly hard to keep the council tax rise down to a minimum. Our grant settlement from the government went up by just two per cent , one of the lowest in Britain, and did not even cover the increase in our wage bill. But we have looked very hard at the budget to come up with the savings needed to keep our number one pledge to the people of Liverpool: To keep the Council Tax down as low as possible.

Over half of our budget, a massive £364 million, is spent on children. Our education and services for young people have been recognised by Ofsted and the Audit Commission as some of the best in the country. We are proud of this record. We have been able to transform these services with record levels of investment - and this has only been achieved by the excellent management of the council's finances.

We have cut costs and reduced waste by a massive £120m million in recent years, enabling that cash to be reinvested in services and to keep the council tax down.

Seven years ago we had the highest council tax in the land and the third worst services. Now we are plummeting down the council tax list of shame and are now well outside the top 100 highest council tax. Many of our services are now recognised as being among the best."

In addition to the council's revenue budget, the Council has also approved its capital programme for next year. More than £200 is being invested in major projects, including the new Kings Dock arena, the new Olympic-sized pool at Picton and improvements to roads and pavements.

Tax bands and amounts payable for 06/07 are:-

Band Liverpool City Council Services Fire and Rescue Service Police Total payable:-

A £767.54 £37.21 £80.97 £885.72
B £895.46 £43.42 £94.47 £1,033.35
C £1,023.39 £49.62 £107.96 £1,180.97
D £1,151.31 £55.82 £121.46 £1,328.59
E £1,407.16 £68.22 £148.45 £1,623.83
F £1,663.00 £80.63 £175.44 £1,919.07
G £1,918.85 £93.03 £202.43 £2,214.31
H £2,302.62 £111.64 £242.92 £2,657.18

The City Council approved its budget for 06/07 at a special meeting held on Wednesday 8 March 06.

In Sefton however the Council Tax rise will be 5%! The final increase will be decided at a budget council meeting on Thursday, 9 March 06.

The proposed 5% council tax increase will mean eg:-

BAND A: Extra £3 a month = £36 per year.
BAND B: Extra £4 a month = £48 per year.
BAND C: Extra £4.58 month = £54.96 per year.
BAND D: Extra £5.15 month = £61.80 per year.

But Sefton will be cutting lots of services as well!

Children adopt animals

THE Friends of Walton Estate and staff at Walton Hall and Gardens Children's Zoo were delighted to hear that children from Broomfields Junior School wanted to adopt animals using £480 they had raised through a non-uniform day.

They have adopted a wide range of animals at the zoo including African pygmy goats, 'Bobo' the donkey, Shetland ponies, miniature pot bellied pigs and rabbits.

The group adoption scheme was set up specifically for schools and uniformed groups after a number of requests for such a scheme had been received from teachers and group leaders.

The 'Adopt an Animal' scheme was started by the Friends of Walton Estate to help raise funds for special projects at the Children's Zoo. The scheme has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in December 2003 and so far the money raised has provided some magnificent new ornamental entrance gates for the zoo.

In August 2005, the gates were presented to the Mayor of Warrington, Cllr Hans Mundry, who accepted them on behalf of the Council, by chairman of the friends group Keith Inman and the Animal Adoption Coordinator Beverly Batey.

Cllr Jeff Richards, Executive Board Member for Sustainable Environment, said:- "I want to thank the school for deciding to use their funds to be a part of this scheme and they will get something back as they will receive regular updates about the animals they have adopted. It's good to see that our young people do get involved in their communities and take an active interest in the environment. The scheme is proving to be very popular and has gone from strength to strength since it was launched in December 2003."

The next project is currently under discussion between the Friends and zoo staff and the adopters will be informed of the new project in their newsletter.

If you would like more information on the Friends of Walton Estate 'Adopt an Animal scheme', please contact Lynne Stamp on 01925 261957.

FPB warns small firms to be on alert for criminal scams!

A leading business pressure group is warning small businesses to be on 'red alert' for scams in the wake of a new ruse targeting small Irish firms.

The Forum of Private Business (FPB) urged small firms to be vigilant after a Swiss-based debt recovery agency contacted Irish companies at the beginning of March demanding payment for being listed in a 'bogus' business directory. The Fairguide is an online directory produced by Construct Data Verlag, an Austrian firm that is currently facing injunction proceedings there, to prevent it from collecting debts from companies invoiced for appearing in the guide. It is alleged that the company uses misleading tactics to fool companies into believing that the listing is free by sending out mailshots to exhibitors at trade fairs who mistakenly consider it to be a communication from the fair organiser. Some Irish businesses have returned the form expecting a free listing in the Fairguide, not realising that the small print commits them to paying several hundred Euros a year for the service.

The FPB's National Chairman Len Collinson said criminals are always on the lookout for easy money and see small businesses, particularly start ups, as a soft touch.

"One of the FPB's key services to members is to provide advice for firms if they suspect they are being sold a pup.
  According to the OFT, Britons part with around £1 billion a year to fraudsters. And sadly, technology has made it even easier for fraudsters to extract cash from the unwary. They have taken to the internet and the text message with glee and the OFT reckons that around 30 million Britons are the subject of their attentions every year."

The all UK small businesses to be on 'red alert' and take note of what has happened to the small Irish firms!

Liverpool congestion charge would be commercial suicide, warns FPB

AS Liverpool heads ever closer to Capital Of Culture in 2008 the city is getting more and more congested. One if the ideas that has been put on the table to 'free up the roads' is to place a congestion charge on the city center FPB is warning Liverpool City Council that a congestion charging scheme would be ‘commercial suicide’ for the city’s business community. Len Collinson, the Merseyside-based National Chairman of the FPB, said on 28 Febuary 2006:- “I must issue a stark warning to Liverpool that a congestion charging scheme risks seriously undermining the small business community. Businesses will view these proposals as more to do with creating another revenue raising cash cow than tackling congestion. It should not be forgotten that businesses are already being stung by the Mersey Tunnel toll, which makes a reported £12m annual surplus for Merseytravel. Surely traffic from Wirral could not be asked to pay the tunnel toll and a congestion charge? And Liverpool is in the top five local authorities outside London for issuing parking tickets. Moreover, there is serious talk of the Runcorn-Widnes bridge being tolled. Having a congestion charge in Liverpool on top of these existing taxes, as well as fuel duty, would be extremely ill advised.”

One thing that has to be taken in to account is that heavy traffic is now getting the city center more grid locked week by week. One other idea is to get the government to fund the Light Rail network, but that is looking like it will not go ahead as they have lost the appeal to get the government to fund it.  If that and public transport is improved, then a congestion charge with exemptions for delivery and other trade vehicles might be for more acceptable. What are your views? Email us today at:-

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