Tax increase: Councils split

County Hall, Northallerton
County Hall, Northallerton
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The news is in direct contrast to the announcement of a recommendation by Scarborough Borough Council that it should approve a three per cent increase – despite government requests for no increase at all.

The county’s cabinet recommendation on the proposed freeze for the second year in a row is due to be debated at a meeting of the council on February 15.

Cllr John Weighell, the county council’s leader, said that the proposed freeze would be worth about £26 to an average Band D household and in “such difficult times” the council was anxious to minimise the financial burden for residents.

Yesterday Nicholas Edwards, Scarborough Council’s finance director, said the decision on whether the borough council should accept the government offer of a freeze or the recommendation to increase tax by three per cent was still out for public consultation and feedback would be presented to the council’s cabinet on February 14.

More than 142 councils across the country have indicated that they will not increase council tax this year.

The two authorities recently had a difference of opinion over the fate of a tree in Irton – approximately £300,000 was spent on a six-year legal battle and a subsequent two-week-long protest, which saw five people climb into the tree’s branches before it was finally felled in October.

As the two councils faced two different positions, Cllr Weighell said: “North Yorkshire is a low spending and low taxing authority which is already making £36 million of savings in the current year, and needs to make a further £15 million next year.

“Although we must make tough spending decisions, we will continue to do everything possible to protect frontline services and the most vulnerable people in our society.”

If approved the county council would accept a Government offer, of a one-off grant of £6 million to avoid the need to impose a tax increase.

North Yorkshire County Council has to find savings of some £69 million over a four year period as a result of the Coalition Government’s spending reviews.

Mr Edwards, for the borough council, said that the Government offer was for one year only, and if it was accepted, the council would have to make savings in future years to make up the shortfall.

He said: “After that year it’s going to cost us £220,000 every year.”

Mr Edwards said that it would cost around £2.2 million over a ten year period on top of the cost of last year’s grant – which was for a four year period – which represented an overall total of £3.3 million over the 10 year period.

He said: “It reduces the level of savings that we would have to find – which ultimately reduces the level and quality of services we can give to the public.”

The council is facing a 33 per cent cut in funding over the next two years – with a reduction in the Government grant of 14.6 per cent.

Scarborough Council acts as the collection agent for council tax in the borough and keeps 14 per cent of the amount collected.

The remainder is divided between other organisations including:

• North Yorkshire County Council which keeps 69 per cent

• North Yorkshire Police Authority which gets 13 per cent

• and North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue which gets four per cent.

The Communities and Local Government secretary Eric Pickles has said that Scarborough Council is defying its “moral duty” by proposing a rise in council tax.

Scarborough Council is one of 15 authorities across the country planning to introduce a rise in council tax for the next financial year.

To ease the strain on household budgets council tax payers are being offered the option of paying their bill in 12 monthly instalments instead of the usual 10 payments.

The two authorities famously had a difference of opinion last year over the fate of a tree in Irton – approximately £300,000 was spent on a six-year legal battle and a subsequent two-week-long protest, which saw five people climb into the tree’s branches before it was finally felled in October.

• Residents are being urged to add their views to the public consultation by visiting www.scarborough.gov.uk/budget2012 by Monday.