Richmondshire District Council proposes council tax freeze to help those struggling

Richmondshire District Council, which last year faced questions after pumping more than a third of its annual council tax income into swimming pool improvements, looks set to freeze its council tax demand for the coming year to help residents who are struggling financially.

A meeting of the authority’s corporate board saw members unanimously recommend to a full meeting of the authority on Tuesday that its bills for the average Band D household remain at £225 for the final year before North Yorkshire Council is launched.

Councillors heard the authority would be able to provide all its services and fund all its ambitions for the year despite the freeze, but the council would need to use more than £300,000 of its reserves to balance the books.

An officer’s report to the meeting stated the average £225 council tax charge, equated to £4.33 per week, while for Band A properties the weekly charge would remain at £2.88.

It stated if members choose to increase council tax by £5, the maximum permitted before having to hold a referendum, the extra funds generated would significantly reduce its budget gap.

If the freeze is approved, it is likely to buck the national trend. Last month local government analysts found 68 per cent of councils were considering raising their council tax to the maximum amount permitted.

The authority’s leader Councillor Angie Dale said as the authority had raised its council tax demand last year, it was important it followed through on its intention to freeze its levy for the coming year.

She told the meeting: “The day-to-day job that I actually do, the amount of people that I am seeing through a food share zero waste hub has actually increased massively.

“There’s a perception out there that it’s a certain kind of people, but it’s not, it’s people who own homes that are actually struggling, and they’re finding it increasingly difficult.”

Councillor William Heslop said supporters of creating a unitary authority for North Yorkshire had forecast “massive savings” so residents could look forward to a period when council tax increases do not occur.

Councillors laughed as he added: “We may even see a reduction in council tax if we are to believe the wonderful people who support unitary authorities.

“Our residents have had a tough time for the past two years. Let’s spread a bit of love around the district.”

Green and independent group leader Cllr Kevin Foster welcomed the freeze.

He said “after objecting to council rise last year during the pandemic maybe this has had some effect and councillors at the lead group have realised how hard some residents are finding things at last.”

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