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Council tax increase to be considered

North Yorkshire County Council (s)

North Yorkshire County Council (s)

Council taxpayers in Ryedale could see a hike in their council tax next April for the first time in several years.

North Yorkshire County Council is considering a rise of up to two per cent because of what it describes as “massive cuts” in Government funding which would mean having to find a further £77 million in savings on top of what is already being achieved up to 2015.

The move comes on top of proposals from Ryedale District Council to consider a 1.99 per cent rise – the first increase in four years.

And recently Malton Town Council decided to increase its precept by around £1 a year.

Members of North Yorkshire County Council will be asked in February to approve the authority’s budget for 2014/15.

Although no firm decisions have yet been made, the suggestion is that there could be a rise of around two per cent.

Any rise above that percentage risks further financial stringencies by the Government.

Officials say that if the council does not increase council tax it will have to find a further £2.3m in savings in addition to those already planned.

“Naturally we would prefer not to present the taxpayers of North Yorkshire with an increase in their bills,” said Councillor John Weighell, the Leader of the Council.

“That is why, since the budget of February 2011, we have frozen council tax even though the financial consequences for the authority have been significant.”

In return for the tax freeze, the Council has received a grant from the Government equivalent to a one per cent rise. A similar offer is being made for the next two years.

“However, we have reached the point where accepting that offer presents us with a financial challenge which we believe may be unacceptable,” said Councillor Weighell.

“We are on track to save £94m over the four years ending in March 2015, and we estimate we already have to find a further £77m over the next four years. This represents a cut in our spending power of more than a third in eight years.

“In the four years ending March 2015, frontline services have been protected as much as possible, with just under two thirds of our savings coming from non-frontline budgets.

“But at the same time as it has cut back on its budgets, the council has seen a significant rise in demand for its services.

“For example, there has been a 75 per cent increase in child protection cases, and at the other end of the age-range, more than a quarter of the adult population of North Yorkshire is over the age of 65.

“Every year, the population of older people increases and with it the demand for the care and support which the council provides.”

A rise of two per cent is equivalent to £21 a year or 41p a week for the average household.

Councillor Weighell said: “While any increase is regrettable, it is my belief that such a relatively small rise in individual tax bills, following three years of tax freezes, would be reasonable.”

Before it makes its decision in February the council will assess public attitudes to a rise through the usual dialogues between councillors and their constituents, through feedback received via the council’s website and through a consultation exercise with the North Yorkshire Citizens’ Panel – a representative sample of around 2,000 residents.

 

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