North Yorkshire County Council’s has agreed to accept the Government’s one-off £6 million council tax grant for 2012/13 in order to freeze council tax for the second year running.
The freezing of council tax will make budget choices even tougher, given that the total grant loss in 2012/13 over and above 2011/12 is already £13.4 million. But county councillors understand that many households are struggling to make ends meet in the current economic climate and that the budget will have to be made to balance through savings.
At yesterday’s quarterly meeting County councillor John Weighell, North Yorkshire’s leader, said:
A freeze on council tax next year would be worth about £26 for the average band D household and in such difficult times the county council is anxious to minimise the financial burden for residents as much as possible. There is a vast number of people in this county such as elderly people on fixed incomes , people in business and retail and those struggling to fill up their cars with petrol and pay gas and electricity bills – for whom £26 is a significant sum.
The county council faces increased financial difficulties in 2013/4 and subsequent years due to further top-slicing of local authority baseline funding to pay for other national initiatives and further reductions in Government funding for all the public sector in the years from 2015/16. In addition the county council must bear the impact of the transfer of public health functions to local authorities from April 2013.
Cllr Weighell continued:
The consequences of accepting the government’s tax grant will undoubtedly be enormously challenging but these challenges will have to be met. We are ahead with our savings targets and will have to continue to look hard at further savings and efficiencies in the future
He has said that North Yorkshire is a low spending and low taxing council which has to find £69 million in savings over four years. The county council is already making £36 million of savings in the current year and needs to make a further £15 million next year while doing everything possible to continue to protect frontline services and the most vulnerable in society.