East Riding council tax payers facing above-inflation increase

COUNCIL tax payers in the East Riding look set to face an above-inflation rise this year.

Officers at the authority are recommending a three per cent increase on the back of a budget of 271m – not including charges yet to be set by the fire and police authorities.

The draft budget would see a Band D household paying 1,230 (an extra 35.83), while the charge for a Band C property would be 1,093.44 (an extra 31.85)

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If approved it will be the third year running that the council has set an increase above the inflation rate.

Inflation increased in December to 2.9 per cent from 1.9 per cent in November, according to the Consumer Prices Index, which estimates the average price of consumer goods and services purchased by households, or 2.4 per cent, according to the Retail Prices Index measure, which includes costs like mortgages.

In stark contrast, this year Liberal Democrats on Hull Council are backing no increase in council tax, although the costs of providing fire and police services is likely to lead to a small rise.

In the last five years the charge for council services alone a Band D household in the East Riding has risen by 190. No figures were available for the number of staff employed by the council in the same period.

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East Riding deputy council leader Jonathan Owen declined to express a view on the three per cent recommendation.

He said: "We've had various discussions on budgets but not any agreement. Anything is possible. We are going to suffer some very severe financial pressure in the years to come."

However other councillors say an increase will protect frontline services.

Tory Bryan Pearson said: "My views are very simple. The council has to set a budget which will allow it to provide frontline services. If it means three per cent, so be it." He said that if the council received the same level of funding from the Government as Hull or north Lincolnshire councils, it too could go for a zero increase:

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"I think people will accept this in view of trying times and we have to keep frontline services going. You can't just abandon the elderly because there's a credit crunch."

But Tory councillor Mark Preston, who resigned the party whip in 2008 over fire cuts, said he could not understand how councils could justify inflation-busting increases year after year.

The businessman said: "In industry we are having to make cuts, people are being laid off, but as far as local government is concerned they carry on spending. When you look at what they are compared to the old rates we are being stung so much.

"But it is also the public expecting more and more services, better roads and pavements – who at the end of the day is going to pay for that?"

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The Liberal Democrats are setting their own budget and say they could do better than three per cent.

Coun Steve Sloan said they were meeting officers on Friday. "I would anticipate we could do better than three per cent. I don't think there's a lot of room for expansion but I think we could maintain what we have got with a judicious use of reserves."

The Tory Cabinet will discuss the level of tax on Monday. It will be set at a special meeting on February 11, but councillors will meet again on February 24 to set the final figure, including police and fire authority precepts.

Last year council was 201st out of 326 councils for council tax.

The fire authority has already asked residents to pay an inflation-busting increase to help prepare for "difficult times" ahead.