Craven District Council agrees fourth freeze on council tax

Craven Herald: Craven District Council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton Craven District Council leader Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton

Craven District Council has agreed to freeze its council tax precept for the fourth year running.

The council is alone among Craven’s main authorities to not increase its precept, with North Yorkshire County Council, the police and fire and rescue all raising their part of the tax.

The council will instead accept a £34,000 freeze grant from central government.

At last week’s full council meeting, the leader, Coun Chris Knowles-Fitton (Cons), said it was the right thing to do.

He said the council, which had already coped with unprecedented cuts with more to come, was now a leaner, more efficient authority. The agreed revenue budget for the coming year, was £6.5 million, with £1 million in the general fund balance and predicted savings of £415,000.

He said: “Five years of severe and progressive cuts in the revenue support grant, accompanied by increasing demands on welfare support, have presented challenges none of us could have foreseen.”

Since 2008, the council had reduced staff by 30 per cent to around 200 and the net budget had reduced from £9.5 million to £6 million.

The council’s senior management team had come down from 16 to five and Craven Pool was no longer in need of its £300,000 subsidy.

He added the council also shared services with Selby, North Yorkshire and Harrogate councils, and had recently started sharing Burnley Council’s monitoring officer.

Spending on capital projects include £250,000 on Skipton Depot, Engine Shed Lane, and £125,000 on a new biomass boiler for Skipton Town Hall, which is in addition to £220,000 for other essential work at the hall.

Some £49,000 is proposed for replacement software at Craven Pool and £439,000 on replacing council vehicles.

Also planned is the conversion of redundant toilets at Ashfield car park, Settle, into a tourist-information centre. It is anticipated the project will cost £80,000, spread over two years.

Meanwhile North Yorkshire County Council has agreed its first rise in council tax for three years.

It decided to increase its precept by just under two per cent, working out as an extra 40p per week, or £21 per year, for an average householder.

North Yorkshire also agreed a set of radical changes to services to bring about “unprecedented” levels of savings while maintaining the quality of its front-line services.

It will undertake reviews of libraries, early-years provision, including children’s centres, and household waste centres and will reduce its winter maintenance budget by £750,000.

There will also be further restructuring in the council, including the possibility of job losses.

However, the council will be investing in its extra-care housing provision for the elderly and the Superfast North Yorkshire broadband programme and plans to spend £5 million to repair roads damaged by recent severe winters and flooding.

Both the police and crime panel and the county’s fire and rescue authority have agreed to increase their precepts by just under two per cent.

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