A council tax rise of 3.99pc was approved at a rowdy town hall meeting where Oldham councilors shouted and traded nicknames.
The tax hike, which is made up of a 1.99pc general rise and two per cent for adult social care, was voted through as part of the Labor administration’s budget on Wednesday night. It means that the average household would pay around £45 more a year to the authority.
The budget plans include the provision to pay all carers in Oldham the foundation living wage, which would see wages rise from £9.50 an hour to £9.90, working out at an extra £768 a year.
During the meeting a minute’s silence was observed to mark those who have been killed since the start of the invasion of Ukraine at the end of February.
Several opposition parties put forward alternative budget amendments calling for changes, including the Liberal Democrats, Conservatives, and the new Failsworth Independent Party (FIP).
The parties’ amendments included various proposals, including the Lib Dems seeking further investment to make the borough more environmentally friendly, upping the budget for street cleaning and tackling fly-tipping, and limiting road speeds to 20mph.
The Tories wanted a freeze on council tax increase this year, limiting it to just the 2pc adult social care precept rise, while the FIP wanted a return to weekly bin collections.
However all three amendments were defeated during a heated three and a half hour meeting of the budget council, with Labor councilors describing several of them as ‘electioneering’.
Amid the back-and-forth of debate, council leader Arooj Shah described FIP councilor Brian Hobin as ‘Brian No-Bin’ in reference to his budget amendment around increasing bin collections.
However Conservative Coun Max Woodvine was admonished by the Mayor Jenny Harrison for describing Labour’s finance chief Abdul Jabbar as ‘The Abdul Dodger’, an Oliver Twist reference after he said the party was ‘pickpocketing residents’.
Leader Coun Shah said that setting the budget had been the most ‘difficult task in a generation’ because of the ‘cumulative impact of 12 years of cuts’, the lingering impact of Covid-19 and high demand in children’s and adult services.
“This budget is one set with a very heavy heart but a lot of ambition too,” she added.
“No one gets elected to raise taxes. But because it’s critical this year for maintaining our most essential council services.
“More and more people need help. We’re very aware that Oldhamers are also concerned about the increased cost of living.
“It is in this economic climate that we chose to use our adult social care precept rise this year to support carers across the borough.”
She told members that the budget included a further £1m into the ‘Don’t Trash Oldham’ campaign, a ‘grot-spot busting’ program to deep clean the borough.
An extra £80k is also being invested in youth services and £100k budgeted as a ‘one-off’ to celebrate the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
However as part of the proposals, the Get Oldham Growing project in Alexandra Park, which works with residents to grow fresh fruit and vegetables, supplies a local food bank, and improve mental health, will cease to be funded by the council to save £62k .
It will mean that a supply of fresh fruit and vegetables for the Oldham food bank will need to be found in the future.
During the meeting Lib Dem Coun Louie Hamblett and Tory member Pam Byrne both called on funding to be found to continue the ‘important’ project going forward.
The budget for 2022/23 was approved by a majority of councillors.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.