County Council to consider tax increase

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton will be 100 years old on Tuesday January 31.

Council tax could be increased for North Yorkshire residents as North Yorkshire County Council struggles to make £173.2m worth of savings.

A proposed two per cent increase will cost the average household an additional £21 a year if councillors approve the increase for next year.

Councillors in North Yorkshire are to consider increasing council tax for the first time in four years and will vote on whether to approve the increase in the authority’s budget for 2014/15.

For the past four years the council has received a grant from the Government equivalent to a 1 per cent rise, in return for freezing tax.

Coun Weighell said: “We have reached the point where accepting that offer presents us with a financial challenge which we believe may be unacceptable.

“We are on track to save £94m over the four years ending in March 2015, and we estimate we already have to find a further £77m over the next four years.”

Coun David Simister (Bilton and Nidd Gorge, UKIP) said the council need to find other ways to save money.

He said that the Allerton Waste Park site should be scrapped to save the council from spending more money and added that UKIP proposals to reduce councillors’ expences would save the council £100,000 a year.

Coun Simister said: “With a two per cent rise people will question if there is going to be an improvement in services, or if services are going to be maintained. But residents will still be facing service cuts, despite paying out more.”

He added: “At the same time wages aren’t going up, bills are rising, any increase will hit hardworking men and women in North Yorkshire.”

Before it makes its decision in February, the Council will assess public attitudes to a rise.

Coun Don Mackenzie (Con, Harrogate Saltergate) said: “I have been a very strong supporter of each and every council tax freeze ofor the last three years. I believe that Conservative-controlled authorities have done very well to manage balanced budgets over those years, in spite of big cuts from central government.

“As far as the decision on the level of next year’s council tax , I would withhold comment until we have the full picture.”

Coun Bill Hoult (Lib Dem, Knaresborough) also felt it was too early to comment.

He said: “Services are being cut for the most vulnerable in our society and we have to find the money to protect the most vulnerable people.

“I haven’t yet been given enough information to make a judgement on this.”