Three per cent council tax rise

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COUNCIL tax payers in Scarborough could face a 3% rise for the next financial year, it has been announced.

The move was endorsed by members of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet and covers the amount which is kept by the authority to fund its services – the council keeps 14 per cent of the total collected and acts as a collection agent for the other organisations.

A rate for the remainder, which goes to North Yorkshire County Council, parish councils as well as the police and fire authorities has yet to be decided. The biggest slice of council tax payments goes to the county council.

The proposals have been drawn up by Nicholas Edwards, the council’s head of finance and asset management, who this week told Cabinet members that he recommended that a Government offer to freeze council tax rates should be declined due to its one-off nature and unsuitable impact on future years’ budgets.

He said that the council was facing a 33% cut in funding over the next two years – with a reduction in the Government grant of 14.6%. “We need a fair balance on the budget proposals. I hope that we can put a fair deal on the table for members to accept,” he added.

Under the proposals, if a freeze on council tax rises was accepted, it would reduce the council’s income by almost £2 million over 10 years – in addition to the £1.316 million already lost by accepting the current freeze which was introduced last April.

Mr Edwards said: “If we accept it we will have to pay for it – either in efficiency savings or cuts in services over the next three years.”

He said that cuts to frontline services should be limited and a lot of work on the budget proposals had already taken place behind the scenes. He said: “We could increase council tax by 3% for next year – for those in Band C that would be a £5.63 increase for the year.”

People who pay by direct debit could get the chance to settle their council tax bill in 12 monthly payments instead of the current 10. He said: “You can still pay by 10 instalments – the offer is there – but you can pay over 12 months if you choose to do so.”

Cllr Jane Kenyon, the portfolio holder for finance, said the report was an “honest appraisal” and the financial dangers facing the council were very real.

She added: “It’s a very difficult decision for members but I hope they will endorse this document.”

Council leader Tom Fox said: “It’s very important that we are very frank about this. The big issue for me is not just local politics but national politics as well.”

He added that single offers from Central Government had “skewed the agenda” because people did not realise the long-term effects.

The budget proposals will be further discussed at this month’s area committees and parish councils.

A presentation to be given at each meeting will include information about the council’s financial background, the settlement given by Government, the capital investment for the borough and where any new projects will be funded from.

The dates and venues for each meeting include:

l Central Rural Area Committee, 7pm at St Mark’s Community Hall, Green Lane, Scarborough, on Tuesday January 24.

l Central Urban Area Committee, 7pm at the Town Hall, Scarborough, on Thursday January 26.

l Eastfield Parish Council meeting on Tuesday, January 30, at 7pm.