Bradford Council’s ruling Conservative group has proposed a below inflation 1.8 per cent council tax increase – but it has warned jobs will have to go as part of an efficiency drive.

Unveiling his budget plans, Council leader Kris Hopkins said he wanted to keep council tax bills for 2009/10 down to a minimum to help people in the recession. But an unspecified number of job losses, a merger of services and tougher efficiency targets will all be needed to cut costs.

Last year, Bradford council tax payers faced a 2.2 per cent increase – which was the lowest in the Yorkshire region.

Speaking after the Council’s executive yesterday agreed his group’s budget proposals, Coun Hopkins said: “Councils are somewhat limited in their ability to stimulate the economy in their locality, but one thing we can do is keep council tax rises down to a minimum. We achieved this in Bradford district in the current year and, with the support of other parties in Council, hopefully we can do it again in the next financial year.”

Coun Hopkins said he did not envisage job losses on a scale comparable to those announced at Leeds City Council where 450 posts are scheduled to go.

The Conservative group also announced plans to inject millions of pounds into a number of high profile regeneration and sporting projects including the delivery of the City Park, Odsal Sporting Village, a city centre swimming pool, a new health centre in Keighley, community hubs in both Baildon and Bingley and an older people’s centre in the heart of Bradford.

Substantial funding was also pledged to support education across the district including through the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Education was also very much part of the Liberal-Democrat group’s budget proposals.

These included a £15 million pledge for the Building Schools for the Future Scheme and an investment of £10m for the creation of a special school for children with severe emotional and behavioural difficulties. The group also proposed a £10m allocation for the delivery of the Odsal Sporting Village.

Lib-Dem leader, Councillor Jeanette Sunderland, said: “The first priority is to ensure that our commitment to Building Schools for the Future is met. This will mean identifying a reserve to support the flow of cash to this project and a longer term plan to ensure that the capital is replaced through the sale of assets.”

Labour group leader, Councillor Ian Greenwood, said he did not yet have the correct information to be able to put forward a budget.

But he said: “When our proposals come forward they will be outlined by three principles. We will look to deliver basic services at a time of economic stress, we will look to protect the most vulnerable and we will look to alleviate the effects of the international economic situation as far as we can.”

The Council will meet on Thursday, February 26, to agree its budget.

e-mail: paddy.mcguffin