North Yorkshire residents are facing an average increase of almost £90 in their annual council tax payment to the unitary authority from April, despite plans to raid the council’s reserves and use £46m of savings.
A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s executive heard efficiencies generated from local government reorganisation had put the local authority in a much stronger financial position than many others, but soaring costs over special educational needs and disabilities and social care had effectively wiped out the savings.
The proposed increase in bills comes before parish councils, the police and fire services announce their plans for billing residents over the coming year.
Nevertheless, although some councillors underlined the vast majority of the proposed savings would not impact on frontline services, others urged the administration to rethink its plan to halve community grants distributed by elected members.
The Tory-run council’s leading members approved pushing forward a recommendation for a council tax increase of 4.99 per cent in the coming financial year, two per cent of which would be reserved for subsidising adult social care.
If approved at a full meeting of the authority next month, the average Band D council tax will rise by £87.80 a year and results in an overall average
Band D level of £1,847 in 2024/25.
However, the meeting heard residents in areas such as Hambleton will see higher rises and householders in districts such as Harrogate lower rises as bills are brought into line across the county.
The authority’s corporate director, Gary Fielding, told the meeting although the next 12 months were needed to develop further savings opportunities the council’s finances remained “sufficiently robust” that there was no immediate danger of having to issue a section 114 financial distress notice.
Councillor Carl Les, the council’s leader, told the meeting North Yorkshire was in “an enviable position” compared with other local authorities.
Liberal Democrat group leader Councillor Bryn Griffiths told the meeting councillors’ community grants represented excellent value for money as they were often used to lever other grants and brought about great social benefits.
In response, the council’s finance boss, Councillor Gareth Dadd said it was “very difficult to quantify benefits” of the grants and highlighted fears of the authority’s deficit “snowballing into section 114 territory”, whereby new spending is severely restricted.
Coun Dadd said the council could face the measure in the future without a sustainable plan and that the “luxury of choices that we have at the moment” were unlikely to continue. He added the council’s “laser-like focus” towards supporting vulnerable people had become more important than ever.
He said the proposed budget would see the fruition of many of the immediate financial benefits arising from local government reform in the county, including restructures in service teams; reduction in senior management; reduction in support service costs; and reduction of corporate overheads.