A £1.7million Government grant to freeze council tax charges has been rejected by Northumberland County Council.
Instead, the levy will increase by 1.99 per cent, the maximum allowed without a referendum, after the grant was labelled “a bribe” by Council Leader Grant Davey.
We would just be storing up problems for the future.Coun Grant Davey Northumberland County Council Leader
Liberal Democrat Group Leader Jeff Reid said: “Labour continually bangs on about the cost of living, but the one thing the council has in its power to control is council tax and the administration chooses to increase it.”
Morpeth Kirkhill member Andrew Tebbutt was also concerned about the rise.
“The authority should have taken the council tax ‘bribe’ and not endorsed a council tax rise when people can least afford to pay it,” he said.
“I’m not talking about people who qualify for council tax benefit, I’m talking about the thousands of people who are just above benefit levels. It is going to cost them at least £30 a year, but then you have the rise from parish authorities and the police authority, and there are increases in water rates and so on. You could be talking about people having to find £50 or £60 extra a year.”
But Coun Davey said previous acceptance of the Government grant had led to £16million in budget cuts now.
“As the Government focuses it public sector expenditure reduction upon councils, local government is facing unprecedented financial pressure to tackle these huge cuts,” he said.
“However, our aim is always to be fair to the residents of Northumberland, particularly those who are most vulnerable, and there have been no changes to our support scheme, which provides up to 100 per cent funding to households most in need. This is done while maintaining essential and making improvements wherever possible, and this rise works out at less than the cost of a chocolate bar each week.
“Perhaps if we were in one of the more affluent areas in the country, which have benefitted from increased business rates income and higher levels of economic growth we could consider a council tax freeze. As it stands, we would just be storing up problems for the future.”