Harrogate residents set to face increased borough and county council taxes

Harrogate residents will face an increase in their council tax bills this year with both the borough and county council planning to raise its charges.

Wednesday, 1st February 2017, 2:58 pm
Updated Wednesday, 1st February 2017, 3:01 pm
Harrogate Borough Council offices

On January 31, North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) Executive recommended an increase in general council tax of 1.99 per cent as well as a 2 per cent social care precept.

Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) are also expected to agree to a £5 council tax increase for a Band D property for both 2017/18 and 2018/19.

In its Draft and Indicative Budget report, HBC explained that since the 2010 Comprehensive Spending Review, its general allocation has reduced by £6.9m (69 per cent) and overall net expenditure by £7.2m (29 per cent).

Coun Richard Cooper, leader of HBC, said the increase would only amount to less than 10 pence per week and would help the council to maintain vital frontline services.

He said: “With an extra £5 a year we are able to maintain nearly £800,000 worth of support to the voluntary sector. We are able to build a new pool in Ripon and giving £30,000 to the Harrogate Homeless Project.

“It also helps us maintain cash for Christmas lights so people can continue enjoying the amazing displays across the district. The funding will also help to maintain our housing stock which is set to be the best in the county.

“We are having a million pounds diverted from the borough council going to social care. This is important because we have a duty to the most vulnerable people in the county but this does affect our way of working.

“Luckily we are moving towards the new council offices which will save a million pounds a year.”

The council have planned to make almost £2m in savings over the next two years as well as generating more than £1.7m in new income in this time from areas including new commercial projects and green garden waste charges.

Coun Cooper said Harrogate’s ability to maintain front-line services was testament to the council’s strong record of financial management “before and during” the current age of austerity.

He said: “I’m impressed with any organisation which is facing difficult times and tackles them head-on rather than moaning about the problem. We looked at the situation many years ago and decided we would fix the roof while the sun was shining. I can imagine other councils may want to get in touch and ask how we did it.”

NYCC’s increase will mean the cost of the recommended rise to the average band D household will be an additional £45.64 a year.

Its financial strategy is also based on similar 3.99 per cent increases each year up to 2020 to prioritise frontline services.

“We know that people face pressure on their finances,” said County Councillor Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Leader.

“Many families are struggling to make ends meet and we do not want to add significantly to their burden.”

Coun Les said he remains concerned about the increasing pressures NYCC faces, not least in adult social care, and will continue to push for a fairer government funding deal.

NYCC has already raised concerns about the current low levels of funding; the higher numbers of older people; and the higher costs of delivering in a large rural county.

“We face enormous challenges in delivering frontline services,” said Cllr Les, “but we will continue to work with partners in the NHS and the voluntary sector to deliver high-quality, sustainable services.

"We will continue to innovate and improve to support older and vulnerable people in living well and independently in their communities for as long as possible.”

The council will take advantage of the full amount of the social care precept currently permitted by the government, but will do this evenly across three years.

NYCC said it was balancing the need for funding of critical services, including adult social care, with affordability for the local taxpayer – rather than accept the government’s offer to front-load it over two years.

By April, the County Council will have delivered nearly £127m of savings and identified a further £33m to be made by 2020. However, there remains a shortfall of nearly £10m to be met by 2020/21.