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Politicians clash over rise in York council tax
A WAR of words is escalating between a Government Minister and York’s council leader over the authority’s decision not to freeze council tax.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles suggested in the Commons that City of York Council was “going to find itself in a very difficult position” after rejecting a £1.8 million Government grant which would have allowed a freeze.
He also spoke of his willingness to “take an away-day trip to York, if only to listen on the doorstep” while a canvasser explained the grant’s rejection.
He said: “This is clearly not in the interests of York; the council has not protected its council taxpayers.
“I am afraid that, unlike the 300-odd authorities throughout the country that have taken the freeze, this council is going to find itself in a very difficult position.”
His comments were made in an exchange with York Outer Tory MP Julian Sturdy, who asked what he made of the decision, which would “needlessly raise council tax instead by 2.9 per cent, thus increasing financial pressures on York residents”.
The words provoked a furious response from Labour council leader James Alexander who said: “York will not be bullied or bribed by Eric Pickles or the Tory-led Government.”
He said Mr Pickles was repeating threats to York residents previously made by Minister Grant Shapps, and residents did not deserve this treatment.
“Eric Pickles needs to realise council finance officers have confirmed that if York took the Government’s ‘buy now, pay later’ council-tax funding option, it would mean £2.2 million extra in cuts over the next two years, or alternatively, a further £300,000 of cuts this year and an even larger 4.5 per cent council tax increase next year,” he said.
“Some councils will fund this future funding gap with reserves, but in York Conservative councillors supported the previous Liberal Democrat administration to dwindle York’s reserves to a minimum over a number of years.”
He added: “Eric Pickles is welcome to debate with me York’s local decision any time.”