Residents whose incomes have been hit by the pandemic will face an extra council tax burden because of the Government’s repeated failure to introduce reforms of social care, a meeting has heard.
Councillors from across North Yorkshire’s political spectrum expressed frustration over the continuing reliance on local authorities to fund care homes as an overwhelming majority of county council members agreed to raise council tax by 3.49 per cent for the coming year.
As a result of the vote at a full meeting of the council an average Band D council tax will rise to £1,411.05 for 2021/22, an increase of around £47, which some councillors said would represent a hammer blow to residents that had been left in dire financial straits.
The county council’s tax demand makes up around 73 per cent of a household’s annual bill, with the remainder split between district and borough councils, parish and town councils and the county’s police and fire services.
Social care accounts for 45 per cent of what the council spends, meaning average council tax-payers will each pay £635 for the service over the coming year.
Councillor Stuart Parsons, leader of the authority’s Independent group, said in the face of Covid the county council had done “a brilliant job” in supporting the vulnerable, but remained concerned the Government had not kept its word about reimbursing the council for its Covid-related expenses. He added residents were facing further increases because the Government’s continuing avoidance of the issue of soaring social care costs.
Labour group leader Councillor Eric Broadbent described the social care element of the tax rise as a “regressive tax penalising lower income earners” at a time they could least afford it.
He added: “Covid-19 has exposed a weakness in our society. Pandemic and poverty have become a toxic mix. The freeze to benefits, the ever longer queues to food banks and all the daily threats of unemployment are but a few of the pressures our residents are having to deal with.”
Members of the Liberal Democrat group detailed how the Government had repeatedly promised a legislation over funding social care, but had failed to bring any proposals forward.
The Conservative-run authority’s deputy leader and finance executive member Councillor Gareth Dadd said it was high time Westminster politicians stopped using the funding of social care as a political football.
He urged Westminster politicians to “grow up and grab the bull by the horns”, adding he was not particularly hopeful of a sustainable cross-party solution.
However, the council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les said the Government had rightly been focusing its efforts on the pandemic and had provided £93m of funding for Covid-related costs in the county.
He said: “More money would be welcome, but faced with the financial problems that the Government is facing I think we have been supported in cost recovery and income guarantees.”
Referring to how the council would draw on its reserves to fund services over the coming year, Cllr Les added: “This is perhaps the rainiest of days that we will ever see. Never have our services been in such demand, but never have our community, our businesses, our county been in such a fragile state. “