Council tax increase confirmed as Harrogate Borough Council approves 2021/22 budget
Harrogate councillors have approved a £5 council tax increase as part of the borough's budget for the next financial year.
The £5 rise - which is the maximum allowed by law before a local referendum is required - was agreed at a full council meeting this evening.
It means the levy on an average Band D property will go up to £250.92 from April.
And once proposed rises from North Yorkshire County Council, parish councils and police and fire services are added, it also means some council tax bills in Harrogate could exceed £2,000.
Councillor Graham Swift, Harrogate Borough Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said despite forecasting an extra £5.9m cost of the coronavirus pandemic, the authority had managed to strike a balanced budget.
He said this was thanks to planned savings, the council tax increase and the government "coming to the rescue" with emergency grants. He added, however, this would still leave the authority several million pounds short and require the use of council cash from a budget transition fund.
Councillor Swift said: “There is no doubt for all people - whether you are a council member or a council staff officer or a member of the public - that 2020 and 2021 are time periods of incredible change caused predominantly by the coronavirus.
“It is because of the coronavirus that Harrogate Borough Council have had a significant impact on our budget and significant changes to the way in which we are financing the budget.”
At tonight's meeting, a move to increase pay for the lowest-paid council employees to £9.50 per hour was also approved. This was agreed by all councillors, but only after some Conservative and Liberal Democrat members embroiled in a bitter row over the wording of a motion.
It comes as the authority has frozen almost all recruitment during the pandemic, which has prompted some concerns that the strain of balancing the books is being placed on staff.
This was flagged by Liberal Democrat councillor Chris Aldred who said he was pleased that the council had budgeted for the frozen posts and spoke in favour of the 2021/22 spending plans.
He said: "I think it is remarkable that we have got to this stage. This is a budget which doesn't really cut anything and that is incredible in this year of Covid.
"£2.7m is what we are funding from the budget transition fund - but it could have been so much worse."
North Yorkshire County Council makes up the largest proportion of bills for Harrogate taxpayers and will meet next Wednesday to vote on a 3.49% rise.
If approved, it will see the authority's proportion of council tax collections rise to £1,411.05.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter