OPPOSITION Conservative councillors have unveiled a plan to cut the council tax for thousands of South Lakeland residents.

Local Tories are preparing to float an alternative at SLDC's major budget setting meeting which takes place at the end of the month.

The ruling Lib Dem administration are proposing a freeze in the share it takes from the Council Tax - their fourth in as many years.

But their Tory opponents on the other side of the council chamber hope to win support for what it says would be the first Council Tax cut for residents since 1994.

Local party officials say their proposal has been "fully vetted by council officers" and will be put forward at the full council meeting on Tuesday February 25.

Devised by Windermere Coun Ben Berry, the cut would represent a one per cent reduction in SLDC's take from a household's Council Tax bill.

Coun Berry claims the cut may seem 'small' but would benefit residents.

"Cutting Council Tax, even by one per cent is a massive step in the right direction," said Coun Berry.

"The savings required to put this cash back in the pockets of our residents came from entirely unneeded spending and in future years I'm certain the council could go even further without risking front line services."

He said the tax cut required savings of only £79,000 and that if parish councils, Cumbria County Council, as well as the Police Commissioner, followed suit it would represent an annual saving of £15.72 for an average Band D property.

Leader of the Conservatives on SLDC, Coun David Williams, said: "We have decided to take money from the hands of councillors and to remove council propaganda to fund this proposal to cut tax for our hard hit residents. If councillors want to argue with that they won't get much sympathy from me."

Specifically the savings have been found from:

* £51,000 by removing the councillors' grants budget - the council allows each of its 51 councillors to apply for up to £1,000 to use for locally-important projects in their ward

* £400 taken from the Chairman of the Council's charity and entertainment budget

* £26,000 by stopping South Lakeland News, the council's newsletter delivered to residents by mail

* £1,600 from officer support to Local Area Partnerships

Coun Peter Thornton, leader of SLDC, replied: "Promises are easy to make when in opposition, however the Conservatives record doesn't bear them out and under the previous Conservative leader we had increases from 3.95 per cent up to over 10 per cent. 

"The Liberal Democrat run-council will be proposing a Council Tax freeze for the fourth year in a row and delivering a balanced budget.

"We will vote against the Conservative plans to take away £1,000 from each ward. Money that goes towards play areas, footpaths,village halls, defibrillators, youth clubs, local theatres and community traffic speed monitoring and that reaches every community in South Lakeland."