North Yorkshire Council and Humberside Police Commissioner Plan Council Tax Freeze
2:19pm 31st January 2013
North Yorkshire County Council and the Humberside Police Commissioner have announced plans to freeze their share of the council tax.
In North Yorkshire, members of the County Council’s Executive will meet next week to approve a package of measures – including a proposal not to increase council tax - to be considered by the full council, at its annual budget meeting on February 20.
The Government has offered councils which implement a freeze a grant equivalent to a one per cent council tax rise. For North Yorkshire, this amounts to £2.2m.
But the grants run out after a certain period of time, leaving councils to find the shortfall afterwards.
“We know that many households are struggling financially,” said County Councillor John Weighell, the Leader of the Council and Chairman of the Executive.
“That is why we are pleased to be able to be proposing to freeze council tax for the third year in succession. This will have saved the average household £95 over the three years.”
Councillors will also consider savings proposals in the wake of the local government funding settlement, which has left the Council needing to find additional savings of about £23m over the next two years, on top of the £69m savings programme it is already implementing.
Since learning of the need for additional spending cuts in August, the council has identified about £18m of savings. These would come from further back office and administrative efficiencies, further reductions in staff numbers and further reviews of services and how the council procures services.
Work will continue to identify the remaining £5m of savings required during 2014/15 and proposals will be taken to the council in late summer. Areas to be considered include charges for services, examining criteria relating to standards of service and working to reduce demand for health-related services. The need to find savings on this scale will undoubtedly have an impact on the frontline.
In addition, the council, along with other local authorities, has lobbied the Government about its funding allocation.
“Rural councils have fared worse than urban councils in the local government funding settlement,” said Councillor Weighell.
“Councillors and local MPs have lobbied the Government, which has indicated it understands there is an issue and is looking at the matter. There is some cause for optimism that this may result in a reduction in the level of savings needed, perhaps by £1m or £2m.”
In addition to further efficiency savings, further staff reductions and changes to how services are procured, the package of measures includes:
• Reduction in the budget for concessionary fares and a review of concessionary fares reimbursement to bus operators;
• Refocusing of the trading standards service;
• A reduction in public rights of way maintenance;
• Additional income targets for libraries, registrars and archives services, a reduction in spending on library stock and further use of digitised services;
• Decommissioning of some children’s centre buildings
• Reduced spending on youth activities;
• Review of some children’s social care services;
Meanwhile, next week Humberside Police Commissioner Matthew Grove is to propose to the Police and Crime Panel a freeze of the police precept of the council tax for 2013/14 and take up the offer of a government grant of £503,000 to fund policing in each of the next two years. A Band D taxpayer will therefore pay £173.12, the same as this year, for policing within their overall council tax in 2013/14.
Explaining the reasons behind his proposal Matthew said:
“Following the Comprehensive Spending review the Humberside Police Authority worked with the Chief Constable Tim Hollis to plan budget cuts of around £30 million through managed reductions and consistently delivered savings to targets. As part of their strategy the Authority increased the precept in this financial year by just under 4% and retained substantial reserves. This allowed me to inherit a relatively sound financial position and I am grateful for that.
I said in my election campaign that I would look closely at more efficient ways of working, which will deliver the most effective police service to the people of our area, before taking more money out of residents pockets than they could afford.
Even though the amounts involved in any increase in respect of policing may be small, in today’s tough financial climate the last thing I want to do is ask hard-pressed families to dig deeper and I appreciate that any extra costs would be unwelcome.
Realistically, I have a choice of two options for the precept next year:
- Freeze the precept. This entitles me to a government grant of £503,000 per year for the next 2 years.
- Raise the precept by 2%. This would mean an increase of £3.46 (7p per week) for a Band D taxpayer. It would generate £836,000 next year in council tax but the government grant of £503,000 would be lost.
I have asked the public for their views as part of the consultation on the Police and Crime Plan and there has been a mixed response with some prepared to pay more and some vehemently against any increase.
I have considered all the information put before me, the overall financial position and listened to the views of community partners and the public. I have decided that through a combination of working with the new Chief Constable to effectively manage the force budget, partnership working and utilising reserves, I will not need to go to the taxpayer for funding this year. I am therefore submitting my proposal to freeze the precept to the Police and Crime Panel.”
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