Decision day for council tax rates

Winter car parking charges in Marine Drive could have netted �15,000.
Winter car parking charges in Marine Drive could have netted �15,000.

A DECISION on whether or not to freeze council tax rates is due to be taken on Friday.

It will be made by members of Scarborough Council and follows a Cabinet recommendation to accept a Government offer of a freeze grant.

The decision was a surprise move because finance chiefs had pushed for a rise of either 2.5 or three per cent – at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting it was revealed that the Government would reduce funding to councils which rejected the offer.

In his report Nicholas Edwards, the council’s finance director, has asked councillors to approve a revenue budget for the coming financial year of £17,045,560 as well as the proposed freeze on council tax rates.

He had previously recommended that the Government grant funding should be declined because it was only for one year and would represent a total loss of income of around £2.2 million over a 10-year period – the council would have to make efficiency savings in future years to claw back the shortfall.

Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting Mr Edwards said that there was a £35,000 shortfall in the budget after two recommendations were rejected:

l £15,000 that would have been generated by the imposition of car parking charges in Marine Drive

l £20,000 needed to retain the mayor’s car and chauffeur.

Cllr Jane Kenyon, the finance portfolio holder, said the proposal for an increase had been widely consulted with the public and generally people were not in favour of a rise. She added: “If you think this has been a difficult budget then brace yourself for next year.”

The recommendation to opt for a zero per cent rise in council tax rates brought Scarborough Council in line with North Yorkshire County Council as well as the police and fire authorities who had all voted in favour of accepting the offer of the Government freeze grant.

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.

Scarborough 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’s Labour group has put forward a number of proposed budget savings which are due to be discussed at Friday’s meeting.

They include: a £3,000 cut to the chief executive’s public relations budget; a £10,000 cut in the Sands Project budget; a £5,000 reduction in the demolition budget; a £5,000 saving on lighting; reducing the Cabinet by three members which would result in a saving of at least £11,000.