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Harrogate taxpayers to be hit with 1.99% tax increase

Taxpayers are set to be hit with another rise in council tax after Harrogate Borough Council revealed plans for a 1.99% increase in its final budget before the authority is abolished. Officials say the rise – which equates to an extra £5 per household per year – is needed in order to balance the books as the council continues to face financial challenges due to pandemic pressures and more than a decade of government cuts. Paul Foster, head of finance at the council, said in a report that while the authority’s grant allocations had been reduced by £8.2m since 2010, it had continued to prioritise key services including bin collections and planning. He said:

“During a period of significant funding reductions, as the government continued to rein in the national deficit, and as other councils across the country faced uncertain futures, Harrogate has continued to maintain its valued frontline services. “This is a testament to the council’s strong record of financial management before and during the age of austerity. “In addition to this, the council has been faced with an unprecedented financial detriment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The resultant economic downturn continues to impact on the council’s finances, with commercial property income, planning fee income and the convention centre lettings income, now not forecast to reach pre-pandemic levels until 2023/24.”
Under government rules, 1.99% is the maximum amount the authority can raise council tax by from April without a local referendum. The proposed increase will be debated at several meetings before a vote from councillors in February. If approved, contributions for the average Band D property will rise to £255.92. Harrogate Borough Council makes up just under 13% of council tax bills, while North Yorkshire County Council makes up 70% and police and fire services the remainder. After rises were agreed last year, average bills in the Harrogate district rose above £2,000 for the first time. North Yorkshire County Council is currently consulting with the public about its council tax and social care precept levels for next year. County council leader Carl Les said:
“Putting up council tax is never an easy option for this authority. We have always striven to be moderate in our increases. “In considering the level of council tax, we must understand and balance the hardship families are currently facing and the added pressure a council tax increase may bring with the need to fund essential services to support the most vulnerable in our communities through this critical period. “We continue to feel that residents in North Yorkshire pay too much council tax, particularly in comparison to London, and urge the government to press on with funding reform to create a fairer solution for rural counties.”
The coming year will be the county council and Harrogate Borough Council’s last before the merger of all North Yorkshire councils into one new authority which will take over control of all services from April 2023. It will mark the biggest changes to local government in the area for almost 50 years, with elections to the new council set to take place in May 2022. Councillor Les added:
“We are currently developing our council plan and budget and encourage residents to have their say on our budget, ambitions and priorities.”
To have your say go to www.northyorks.gov.uk/our-challenge-your-services-your-say-budget-consultation By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter Read more local stories from Your Harrogate here.

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