The leader of North Yorkshire County Council has said increasing council tax during the covid pandemic is the “most difficult decision” the authority has made.
It was confirmed today that a band D property in the Harrogate district will see its bill increase to £2,007 from this April. It is currently £1,947.
County councillors voted for the 3.49% hike, which includes 1.5% for adult social care, in its share of council tax at a meeting today.
Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner also agreed increases in their rates earlier this month, which means the final sum is now known.
Cllr Carl Les, leader of the county council, told councillors that it was a “difficult balance to strike” to ask people to pay more while the economy was struggling.
“I think this is the most difficult decision any of us have had to make at this council.
“Never has the local economy been so hard hit by this dreadful pandemic, but equally never has our community been so tested, and our services so needed.
“We must strike that difficult balance between what we need to do the job, and what our residents can afford to pay.”
But Cllr Bryn Griffiths, speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democrat group, criticised the national government for failing to publish details of its reforms to adult social care, which has prompted councils to increase council tax to pay for it.
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He said the precept added onto the council tax bill to pay for the service may be “the final straw” for some people.
Cllr Griffiths said:
“Due to the covid pandemic, many of our residents are in dire financial straits and will find it difficult to pay the proposed increase in council tax.
“Increasing the social care precept to cover the government’s inadequacies in what is a national problem will be the final straw for many.”
Cllr Stuart Parsons, leader of the North Yorkshire Independents, said the government was “transferring the blame” on taxation instead of solving funding problems in areas such as social care.
Meanwhile, Cllr Eric Broadbent, leader of the Labour group, said he “reluctantly” supported the increase, but added that council tax was “regressive” and “penalised” those on low incomes.
The vote to increase council tax and pass the authority’s budget was passed with 59 votes in favour, two against and four abstentions.
Cost of covid
So far, the county council has spent £80 million responding to covid.
It has responded by hiking council tax and dipping into its reserves to balance the books.
The county council will use £8.2 million of its own funds to offset a projected shortfall next year, but officials have warned it cannot continue to use its reserves in the long run.