Richmondshire District Council accused of “failing its residents” over tax increase

Richmondshire District Council has been accused of “failing its residents”, despite being set to join a select group of authorities nationwide in setting a council tax increase below the maximum allowed.

The council’s corporate board heard a government windfall of £74,497 for delivering rural services and £3,014 to help with business rates meant residents in average Band D properties look set to pay the authority £211.40 in the 2018/19 financial year, an increase of £5.

The planned 2.42 per cent rise in the Richmondshire council’s precept, when combined with expected increased demands of £59.35 from North Yorkshire County Council, £11.50 from North Yorkshire Police and £2 by North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, would see residents in the area paying about £78 more per year for a typical Band D property.

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Sian Moore, the authority’s chief finance officer, had told the meeting that before receiving news of the government grant, members had been due to set an increase of just below three per cent – as several other district councils in the county look set to.

In December, Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said councils would be able to increase core bills by up to 2.99  per cent in April without having to hold a residents’ referendum, where previously the limit had been 1.99 per cent.

Councillor Stuart Parsons, The Independents party member for Richmond West, told members the council’s ruling Conservative group had failed to deliver on its council tax pledge from the last election.

He said while residents were facing council tax demand rises from the county council, police and fire service that were equal to or above the rate of inflation, the district authority needed to strive to reduce the burden on taxpayers.

Councillor Parsons said: “I am incredibly disappointed that the ruling group  is continuing to put an excessive rise on our residents. Our parishes are able to manage their purses.

“There are many areas where efficiencies could have been made and haven’t. We are failing our residents. People can ill afford this rise because their wages are not rising at the same pace.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said the election pledge had been to keep council tax low, and that was what members would be asked to do when setting the rate at a meeting on Tuesday.

She added: “When we hear about the problems across the country that council tax setting is creating, I think we have done an excellent of of keeping it to £5. I think the Conservative government have done very well to give us this extra funding to make it even better for our taxpayers.”

Leyburn ward councillor Tony Duff said the increase should be viewed against a 66 per cent drop in funding from central government between the 2010/11 and 2019/20 financial years, and concerns that officers had forecast needing to spend nearly £434,000 of the council’s reserves next year to balance the books.

He said: “We are not going to the maximum.

“We have got to look forward and consider what is going to happen next year.”