The Government has been warned it faces a “rural revolution” as council taxpayers in parts of Yorkshire face bills of up to three times more than some of London’s most exclusive boroughs.
North Yorkshire County Council’s deputy leader Gareth Dadd told colleagues “we are now at the tipping point of acceptability over council tax”, as the authority pushed forward council tax increases with a “heavy heart”.
After a consultation with 1,800 responses, the council looks set to increase rates by two per cent, plus another two per cent to cover the spiralling costs of adult social care.
But Coun Dadd said: “This evidence will be paramount with Government lobbying. We are now at a tipping point of acceptability over council tax. Some may say this is a bit of a rural revolution.”
The council’s cabinet meeting heard the Government had created an additional budgeting headache by proposing local authorities be banned from using general funds to subsidise shortfalls in school funding without Secretary of State approval. Without extra funding, cash for children with special educational needs and disabilities would face a £12m shortfall over the next four years.
But Coun Dadd said the root cause of North Yorkshire’s difficulties centred on an unfair formula being used by the Government to calculate how much funding councils should receive.
He told members: “It cannot be right, as efficient as we are, for an average band D property council tax in North Yorkshire to be £1,544 and for a band D property in an average inner London borough to be £1,157, with some Westminster, for example, being £433 or £754 if you count the Greater London Authority. This inequality has been prevailing for decades under governments of all political colours.”
Coun Dadd called on the Government to be robust in its evidence-based assessments when reviewing funding for councils and urged it to “challenge some of those London boroughs to sharpen their pencils as we have ours”.
A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said councils are getting their “biggest annual real-terms increase in spending power in a decade” next year, with North Yorkshire getting £27.8m more funding.
The spokesperson added: “The funding plans provide certainty for councils who are responsible for delivering the services their communities need and will protect residents from excessive council tax increases.”