Windfall of £857,000 to alleviate council’s cash crisis

ONE of Yorkshire’s largest councils has been given an unexpected six-figure windfall from the Government after it had been handed one of the worst funding settlements in the country.

North Yorkshire County Council has confirmed it has received £857,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government after Ministers were petitioned over the huge variations between rural authorities and their urban counterparts.

The council is among the worst-funded authorities nationally, and the Yorkshire Post revealed last month it had endured a cut of almost eight per cent in the Government’s main grant stoking fears of a growing divide between rural and urban areas.

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The extra money will be used to fund improved drainage on highways which has been identified as one of the most urgent issues by County Hall officials. The extra cash will supplement a £723,000 programme already agreed. But council leader John Weighell admitted the authority is still faced with making its toughest decisions to balance budgets since he became a member in 1993.

The council is in the middle of a four-year programme to cut its spending by £69m by 2014/15. But another council tax freeze –the third in as many years which was agreed at a full council meeting yesterday – and further changes to the Government’s funding are expected to mean the authority will have to cut an extra £24m over the next two years, making a total reduction of £93m.

Coun Weighell said: “We are facing up to great challenges. But we have decided to freeze council tax again because we feel a rise is something that cannot be afforded by North Yorkshire’s taxpayers.”

The council tax freeze comes ahead of the impending county council elections in May.

Research from the national campaign group SPARSE Rural, which is calling for a fairer funding deal, revealed the county council has seen a 7.92 per cent reduction in funding for the new financial year compared with an average 4.48 per cent cut for all authorities nationally.