County set to keep tax frozen for third year

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North Yorkshire county councillors are expected to approve a council tax freeze – for the third year running – when they meet to consider the budget later this month.

The Government has offered councils that implement a freeze a grant equivalent to a one per cent council tax rise. For North Yorkshire, this would be £2.5m.

Coun John Weighell, leader of the county council, said: “We know that many households are struggling financially. That is why we are pleased to be proposing a council tax freeze for the third year in succession. This will have saved the average household £95 over the three years.”

Councillors will also consider savings proposals in the wake of the local government funding settlement, which has left the county council needing to find additional savings of about £23m over the next two years. These are on top of £69m of savings the council is already implementing.

Since learning of the need for additional spending cuts in August, the council has identified about £18m of savings.

These would come from further back office and administrative efficiencies, reductions in staff numbers and reviews of services and how the council buys services. These strive to minimise the impact on frontline services, but some effects will be felt.

Work will continue to identify the remaining £5m of savings required during 2014/15 and proposals will be taken to the council in late summer.

Coun Weighell said: “Further difficult decisions will have to be made, and the scope and pace of the savings required mean it is becoming more and more difficult to protect frontline services.”

The county council has taken part in lobbying of the Government about funding allocations.

“Rural councils have fared worse than urban councils in the local government funding settlement,” said Coun Weighell.

“Councillors and local MPs have lobbied the Government, which has indicated it understands there is an issue and is looking at the matter. There is some cause for optimism this may result in a reduction in the level of savings needed in future years, but we still expect a shortfall of several million.”