A planned 1.9 per cent increase in Birmingham council tax bills proves that the "culture of fiscal irresponsibility" which afflicted the city for years is a thing of the past, it was claimed last night.
City Council leader Mike Whitby said the rise, which is equivalent to about 45p a week for a Band D property and will be one of the lowest in the country, showed that his Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition could deliver quality services within a prudent budget.
Coun Whitby (Con Harborne) said that with the Consumer Prices Index running at 2.7 per cent, the council tax increase should be seen by the public as a cut in real terms.
It will be the second year running that council tax bills have risen by 1.9 per cent.
"After ten years of inflation-busting increases we have shown that we can restore fiscal responsibility," Coun Whitby added.
The levy is sharply below the Government 3.5 per cent estimate for average council tax increases.
In an attack on Labour's 20-year rule of Birmingham, which ended in 2004, Coun Whitby added: "We have eradicated the culture of overspending and waste that epitomised the previous administration failure to deliver vital services."
He insisted it would have been "irresponsible" to freeze council tax bills, although the 1.9 per cent increase will raise only #4.5 million in additional revenue.
Coun Whitby described the 2007/08 budget as practical and pragmatic.
It will deliver an additional #32.6 million to front line services, an increase of about four per cent on this year's expenditure. In addition, council departments will have to find #20 million in efficiency savings.
There will also be #1 million to support the recovery of the Sparkbrook area following the 2005 tornado.
Spending on social services will have risen by #100 million since 2004.
Coun Whitby added: "People can see that this administration has credibility. We have been in office for 31 months and it is clear that we can be trusted by the electorate to deliver what we promise."
The budget includes an additional #7 million to improve Birmingham's record on recycling.
The additional money will allow the household paper, green and mixed materials recycling programmes to be extended along with improvements to street cleaning.
Each of Birmingham's 40 wards will be visited by a "swat team" of graffiti cleaners once every ten weeks.
Coun Whitby added: "People tell us that they want a cleaner, greener city. They want to be able to leave their homes and not see rubbish on the streets and graffiti on the walls. This is a very important issue."
He said opinion polls carried out for the council showed growing confidence in the local authority's performance.
The level of satisfaction among the public had risen from 59 per cent to 71 per cent, while dissatisfaction was down from 29 per cent to 18 per cent, he added.