Authority to defy Government over council tax

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

A Conservative-run council looks set to defy the Government’s call on authorities to freeze council tax for the second year in a row.

North Yorkshire County Council’s executive is expected to approve an increase just below two per cent today, a decision which will need approval by the full council.

In common with many other Yorkshire councils, the county has been forced to make huge budget savings in response to reductions in their funding from central government.

The coalition has consistently offered councils extra money - the equivalent of a one per cent rise in council tax - as a reward for freezing their bills.

But last year, North Yorkshire brought years of freezes to an end and looks likely to increase bills again this year. The county council precept makes up close to 70 per cent of Scarborough tax payer’s bills.

Council leader John Weighell said county councils were suffering under funding mechanisms introduced by the Government to encourage new house-building and business growth. He said the 1.99 per cent precept increase was needed.

A rise of two per cent or higher would require a county-wide referendum.

He added: “The biggest single problem is in health and social care. It is the care budget that is the problem for all single tier and top tier authorities.

“Small unitary authorities and counties are definitely suffering from the care funding situation.”

The Local Government Association warned last month that rising demand for adult social care and falling grants meant that councils would have little money to pay for anything else by the end of the decade.

North Yorkshire County Council already has plans in place to make savings worth £58 million over the next five years.

A report to be considered by senior councillors next week warns that a further £14 million of cuts have yet to be found but no fresh proposals are being put forward at this point.

The budget for the coming year is also likely to include £4 million to help support the rollout of superfast broadband across the county.

Superfast broadband is already being delivered across the county through a contract with BT but that will not reach all areas.

The £4 million allocated for this year is designed to help fund efforts to reach the remotest parts of the county.

Cllr Weighell said: “North Yorkshire is well ahead of other rural areas but getting to 100 per cent coverage will be challenging.”

Scarborough Council has indicated that it will freeze its share of the council tax once again, although the final decision will not be taken by councillors until later this month.

North Yorkshire Police consulted on whether to raise its share of the tax, and said last month that ‘the majority’ of people who responded were in favour of a 1.99 per cent rise.

Julia Mulligan, Police and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said, “The public have been quite clear that they are happy to pay more for local policing. I respect that decision and I am minded to implement a 1.99% precept increase.”

A decision is due to be taken on Thursday on the proposed rise.

North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service will also make a decision later this month on whether to raise its share of the council tax.