COUNCILLORS have agreed to freeze council tax in Waltham Forest this year - but the Tories have said they could have cut it by 2.3 per cent if they were in power.

Council leader Chris Robbins described the tax freeze, which will be financed by £10 million-worth of budget savings, as a "real boost" for residents.

But the Tories alternative budget, which was checked by the council’s director of finance, detailed a 2.3 per cent cut in council tax - partly financed by cutting the authority’s publicity budget and fleet of CCTV ‘spy cars’.

The approved budget, supported by the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, was voted through at a meeting of full council last Thursday.

It includes extra funding for schools, equivalent to £207 a pupil, an extra £500,000 for environment enforcement, £200,000 to tackle dangerous dogs and an extra £2.6m on children's services.

The council tax freeze will be paid for through a £1.7m cut from adult social care, including nearly £500,000 saved by reducing staff numbers.

A total of £480,000 will be cut by outsourcing the management of council buildings and there will be job cuts in the housing department.

Cabinet members previously agreed that most increases in charges and fees will be kept slightly below inflation at 1.5 per cent, but owners of heavy-polluting cars will face larger increases of between 2.9 and 11 per cent and parking fines will be increased - raking in an estimated £500,000.

Penalties for littering, flytipping and noise pollution will all increase.

Cllr Robbins said: “I am proud that in addition to keeping council tax down we have been able to increase spending on the issues our residents tell us are their priorities from cleaning up litter to making our streets safer.”

The Tory proposals would have seen £750,000 from the council’s corporate communications department and axing the authority’s information sheet, Waltham Forest News.

It also proposed to save £355,000 by getting rid of CCTV vehicles, which enforce traffic regulations.

Cllr Davis said: “Having a large expensive corporate communications department makes no difference to residents' satisfaction levels at all.

“Our message is that the council should stop telling people how good it is and prove it by doing the things people want it to.”

Despite previous criticisms of the cuts to adult social care, the Tories included them in their budget after officers guaranteed frontline services would not be affected.

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