A local authority facing an £18m deficit every year has revealed it is looking to buck the national trend and restrict its council tax rise to below the maximum allowed to help residents hit by the pandemic.
North Yorkshire County Council’s executive has approved recommending asking average band D council tax-payers to pay £47.58 extra for its services.
This is would mean its element of the average council tax bill alone would rise to £1,411.05 in the coming financial year, where 20 years ago it stood at just £668.
The Conservative-run council’s opponents have highlighted the tax demand has risen at a rate far above inflation and claim residents are facing hundreds of pounds extra on their bills as a result of the authority failing to properly lobby successive governments.
The authority’s finance boss, Councillor Gareth Dadd, told the meeting the 3.49 per cent increase in its demand struck a balance between residents ability to pay following the pandemic extra amounts in council tax and the need for the authority to provide critical services.
He said unlike many councils it would not take the maximum 4.99 per cent increase this year, but could make a further charge to cover social care next year “should things change dramatically”.
Cllr Dadd said: “There will be very many people in the county over the next 12 months that will lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic and the downturn in the economy. By setting this budget we will be in a position to direct those resources and help those folk that really need it.”
However, he warned the council would either have to introduce further cutbacks or find ways of increasing its income in the next two years.
Cllr Dadd also dismissed claims made by the leader of the council’s Independent group that the authority had failed to successfully lobby Government over recouping all its £93m pandemic-related costs, leading to North Yorkshire council tax-payers being left with an extra bill.
The council’s leader Councillor Carl Les added the Government had “stood shoulder to shoulder” with the authority and said it would continue to pressure ministers over reforming funding for social care.
After the meeting, the leader of the authority’s Liberal Democrat group, Councillor Geoff Webber, said he would be supporting the proposed increase.
He added: “I always feel they are a bit reticent about lobbying Government because it is their government.
“What worries me more than anything is the way we are raising money to pay for social services. It should be done nationally through progressive taxation and we are doing it locally through regressive taxation. It is almost in principle like going back to the old days of the workhouses. It’s totally wrong and successive governments have refused to deal with.”