RATEPAYERS in the East Riding will be paying a lower-than- expected council tax increase this year.
East Riding Conservatives took the wind out of their main political opponents' sails by announcing a 1.5 per cent increase which will see the average household in the East Riding pay an extra 16.
The final bill will be higher when the police and fire set their own precepts later this month.
But for the council tax element alone Band D householders will pay 1,212 (just under 18 extra) and a Band C householder 1,077 (just under 16).
The Government has not formally "capped" council tax increases, but says it expects the "average" rise for local authorities nationally to be below three per cent. Many councils, of all political persuasions, are setting lower or zero increases ahead of a General Election.
The lower-than-expected increase should come as some relief to thousands of financially-stricken families and those on fixed incomes.
However, Andrew Allison, of the Hull and East Riding branch of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said there was no cause for celebration: "To me it's all window-dressing and not addressing the root of the problem.
"They need to look at reducing costs and managers and salaries.
"If we'd managed to have no increase at all I would have said well done."
The Liberal Democrats on Hull Council have already pledged not to increase the council element of the bill.
The rise is half that recommended by officers, but council leader Stephen Parnaby said it was workable and hinted that controversial increases to parking charges would not be introduced this year.
Taxpayers, he also said, could look forward to an "even lower" increase in council tax next year.
He told a meeting in Beverley the budget "sees modest increases in charges for services; freezes car parking charges; but actually our proposal goes one step further by reducing the increase in council tax to 1.5 per cent against the recommended three per cent."
More than 1m is coming from reserves and contingency funds, as well as another 500,000 from a training budget
Another 578,000 was coming from a contingency fund to pay for increases in staff salaries. Coun Parnaby said he could not anticipate how wage negotiations nationally would fare "but the employers have stated no increases."
Coun Parnaby said he was sure taxpayers would appreciate the below-inflation increase and was confident of proposing an even lower increase in 2011.
He said: "There will be a lot of hard work and some difficult challenges next year. Nobody, of course, knows – despite huge speculation – what exactly will happen nationally but I am sure whatever transpires we will rise to the challenge."
The Liberal Democrats also proposed a 1.5 per cent rise. Group leader Brian Jefferies suggested councillors' allowances be frozen "in the spirit of setting an example of restraint in these times of financial hardship."
Coun Jefferies said: "I am very disappointed that councillors did not feel they could make this small sacrifice at a time when wage increase for our staff are to be held to almost zero per cent."
Labour – which backed a three per cent rise – condemned the 1.5 per cent increase as a "total gesture to the coming election".
Coun Laurie Cross said it sent out the wrong message to staff at a time when inflation was increasing."
However Beverley and Holderness Tory MP Graham Stuart said Labour "had learnt nothing."
He said: "The choice at the General Election is now clear – responsible government under the Conservatives or sky rocketing taxes under Labour."