County to freeze council tax rates

ONE of Yorkshire’s largest councils yesterday announced a proposed council tax freeze despite having to slash its budgets by £69m over the next four years.

North Yorkshire County Council is planning to keep the current council tax rate for the forthcoming financial year to try and help householders struggling amid the ongoing economic gloom.

Senior councillors admitted that the tax freeze will make budget choices even tougher, with front-line services bound to be affected as the cuts are made to an annual net budget of £350m.

Council leader John Weighell said: “We understand how difficult things are for households and families at the present time and so we are proposing not to raise council tax.

“However, North Yorkshire is a low-spending and low-taxing council which has already made £60m savings over the past five years. This leaves the authority with reduced scope for making savings through efficiency.

“Nevertheless we are doing everything possible to make tough spending decisions while protecting frontline services and the most vulnerable people in our society.”

The council provoked controversy last year when it imposed a so-called “snow levy” to pay for road repairs in the wake of the worst winter for more than 30 years. More than 258,000 households across North Yorkshire have seen a 2.94 per cent rise in council tax in the current financial year instead of a planned 2.5 per cent increase which went out for public consultation.

But council tax rates for the forthcoming financial year are expected to remain frozen, the bill for an average band D property staying at £1,057.48.

The council has so far identified £54m in savings, and chief executive Richard Flinton maintained the remainder of the cuts will be achieved through a restructuring of “management, administration and better contracts”.

But he admitted that it would not be possible to protect all front-line services.