Kirklees to freeze council tax as Pickles sets out new rules

Eric PicklesEric Pickles
Eric Pickles
Councils have been ordered to keep records of how their members vote on taxes by Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

The order coincided with Kirklees Council’s ruling Labour group proposing to freeze its council tax for the year ahead while Conservative-run North Yorkshire County Council took another step towards raising council tax for the first time in four years.

New regulations mean that local authorities will have to record how each member votes on council tax rather than just the overall result.

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Mr Pickles said: “Much like an MP, how a councillor votes should be a matter of public record so the electorate can see each decision has their best interests at heart.

“The changes we have introduced today will strengthen the local accountability around council tax. With voting decisions openly recorded and local referendums for excessive increases, council tax bills will no longer dodge local democracy.”

James Alexander, leader of York Council which has proposed a 1.9 per cent rise, said: “I personally don’t have a problem with such votes being named votes, but I do object to constantly being told by Ministers what to do whilst at the same time being told they are devolving responsibilities to local government.

“ My colleagues and I were elected with a majority and a mandate to make decisions and we are held to account every time we stand for election. The current Government has no such majority or mandate.”

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Kirklees Council will vote later this month on proposals from the minority Labour administration to freeze bills.

Council leader Mehboob Khan said: “Local people have experienced price rises across all aspects of daily life including food, fuel and other costs and we are doing all we can to help them through this period of financial squeeze.

“Despite taking this action we will still be in a position to prioritise funding in coming years on health and social care, apprentices, jobs and the economy which are absolutely essential to the future of the area and the wellbeing of its residents.”

The administration’s budget proposals would include savings of £21 million for the year ahead.

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Conservative group leader Robert Light said: “I am delighted that the Labour controlled Council have reversed their own proposals and agreed to accept that council tax increases should be frozen in line with the incentives offered by the Conservative led Government.

“Under pressure from ourselves they are adopting our priorities of freezing council tax and maintaining funds for our local communities. This represents a double win for residents throughout Kirklees.”

A 1.99 per cent increase will be considered by North Yorkshire County Council on February 19.