Council tax freeze agreed in East Riding

Coun Stephen Parnaby, leader of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
Coun Stephen Parnaby, leader of the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

EAST Riding of Yorkshire Council has agreed to freeze council tax for the third year running.

At a full meeting last Thursday, the council set its budget for 2013-14 which freezes council tax, does not involve a reduction in any public facilities run by the council and continues its annual spending of £22 million within the voluntary and community sector.

The budget also achieves savings of £24 million in line with the need to further reduce spending as a result of on-going reductions in Government funding, which accounts for around two thirds of all the money available to the council.

Councillors rejected a late motion by the council’s Labour group, who proposed increasing Council Tax by 1.9% - increasing resources by £1.823 million - to help protect council tax benefit.

Councillor Stephen Parnaby OBE, leader of the council, said: “This council like others has faced large cuts in government grant which looks set to continue in future years and this presents a big challenge especially as the East Riding starts from a low funding base with funding that is well below the average for similar councils.

“However we have planned ahead with a strong financial strategy that is achieving substantial cumulative savings while protecting the essential services on which East Riding residents – including vulnerable children and adults – depend.”

“Residents have identified highways maintenance as a top priority and I am pleased to confirm that the council will find the funding, as we have consistently done in recent years, to repair damaged roads which have taken another battering this winter.

“More good news is the council’s decision today to continue for another year the £200,000 grant fund for town and parish councils.

“This has proved popular and achieved some excellent outcomes – for example in enabling parishes to buy equipment to help deal with severe winter weather in their areas.”

Coun Pat O’Neil, leader of the council’s Labour group, said that an increase in tax would have allowed the council to be able to fund Crisis loans and Community Care Grants as required, not up to a cash limit.

The Labour group said that the move could also reverse the 25% reduction in Council Tax Benefits.

Coun O’Neil said: “By not supporting the Labour Group budget the Council has missed the chance to help the working poor and disabled in our community.”

The decision to freeze tax means that a Band A household in Bridlington will pay £808.13 for services provided by the council. A band D property will pay £1,212.20 from April.

The council faces a projected funding reduction of £47.3 million over the period 2010/11 to 2016/17. The Government’s grant to the council for 2013/14 has been reduced by £11.3 million or 8.1%.

Savings achieved by the council over the last three years total some £47 million but further large savings will still be needed in future years as government cutbacks to its funding for local government are anticipated to continue until at least 2017/18.

Councils choosing to freeze their council tax are receiving additional Government funding equivalent to a one% increase in council tax which for the East Riding is £1.452 million.

The agreed budget will continue investment in the East Riding’s infrastructure through the separately funded capital programme.

Around £89 million will be invested in this way in 2013/14 with a similar sum earmarked for the year after to help support local contractors and maintain jobs.

The final council tax resolution is scheduled to be approved at the Council meeting on Wednesday February 20 when details of the separate precepts for Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and from the Police and Crime Commissioner are known.