THE leaders of the Conservative-dominated county council facing “unrelenting” budget pressures due to spiralling social care costs have issued an appeal to Westminster to stop using funding for the key service as “a political football”.

The annual council tax setting meeting of North Yorkshire County Council saw its Tory administration being repeatedly accused of failing to effectively lobby for sufficient funding for the social care as members approved a move to add an extra two per cent increase on council tax to help pay for the service.

The budget package agreed means that that council tax will rise by 3.99 per cent – including the two per cent social care precept – the equivalent of £4.36 per month or £1 per week for an average household.

After quoting a passage from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to draw parallels with the way funding was provided to the most vulnerable members of society, leader of the authority’s Liberal Democrat group Geoff Webber said residents were supporting social services by a “direct and regressive tax”.

He warned the council’s decision to partly fund social care through its reserves due to poor government funding settlements was a “bad policy” and if the authority was forced to continue doing so its reserves would be wiped out by 2024.

Cllr Webber said: “I can recall in 2017 at a members’ seminar the chief executive saying he was more hopeful of fair settlements with two North Yorkshire MPs holding cabinet rank. It seems to have made little difference.

“I can only ask the executive to lobby the government of their party even harder for a fair and secure financial formula for what with Brexit terms uncertain is going to be an uncertain future.”

Independents group leader Councillor Stuart Parsons said it was clear austerity was not over for local government in North Yorkshire.

He said: “We continue to be punished. We are expected to provide more and more services to more and more people with less and less money. That is incredibly sad, but it’s also a reflection of how ineffectual lobbying on the government has been over the past ten years.

“The result is we have a budget which is appalling for our residents where we are propping up central government because we have to prop up our residents.”

Labour group leader Councillor Eric Broadbent said not everyone in the county had the financial capability of paying more for less.

He added: “To keep asking these residents to keep on paying more when they can’t afford to pay what they are doing now is only going to create more debts, more problems and more problems with council tax arrears.”

The council’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, reiterated his determination to protect frontline services despite the authority having cut £169 million from its budget over the last decade.

He said: “We have got to continue to lobby.”

Cllr Les said he remained optimistic that the government’s anticipated Fairer Funding Review would work for North Yorkshire.

He said: “I have got a lot of confidence in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think there will be a cross-party solution found to adult social care and it’s got to be a national solution, it can’t just be left as a council tax issue. I have a lot of confidence in Boris when he says we’ve got to level up the country.”

The authority’s deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd added: “Social care funding is a real political issue and government after government have gone to the cliff edge and tried to come up with a national formula and then it’s been used, in the same way that NHS funding has, as some sort of political football.

“My plea to politicians of all parties in Westminster is to have a sensible, grown-up conversation about it and not use it for party political purposes.”