COUNCIL chiefs in York and Selby have vowed to do all they can to help cash-strapped tax-payers through the looming recession.

Residents across York and North Yorkshire will next month learn how much council tax they must pay in 2009/10, and which frontline services will be saved or cut.

Leading councillors today pledged to help residents, by trying to keep council tax rises as low as possible or helping voters struggling with their bills. Mark Crane, the leader of Selby District Council, said it was difficult to balance the authority’s books, but it had a responsibility to help voters.

He said: “We do face real cost pressures this year because the Government grant has been lower than it almost ever has been before, and clearly we have had to up the number of services we deliver because of the recession and the other big factor is that we get a lot of money from interest on deposit, which has reduced significantly.

“But we recognise that everybody is struggling to pay bills and we need to do everything the council can do to assist people in these times.” He said there was no chance of council tax being frozen, but said the council would look to keep its share of the increase as low as possible.

In Selby District, householders’ council-tax is set by a combination of the district council, North Yorkshire County Council and the fire and police authorities.

In York, Labour councillor James Alexander has called for hard-up residents to be allowed to defer paying their council tax when they are struggling. Coun Alexander, who will also stand in York Outer in the next general election, said: “The council has such a scheme for those selling properties who are supported by solicitors; why cannot it not have a scheme for those with families who are living in their homes?” The number of “liability orders” issued by the council is already higher in 2008/9 than in all of 2007/8, with 5,335 having been issued this year. Coun Alexander put it down to the credit crunch.

Council leader Andrew Waller said a “systematic review” into payment processes was currently ongoing, with a report due soon.

He said: “We will look at how we can help people who are behind with either council rent or council tax if there has been an uplift as a result of the credit crunch.”

John Weighell, leader of North Yorkshire County Council, said its council tax increase was originally predicted to be 4.75 per cent, but he said: “We are looking at decreasing that quite considerably, but we do not know how much at this point in time.” He said the council wanted to keep the increase down, but also had to ensure services were maintained.

Stephen Parnaby, East Riding of Yorkshire Council leader, was unavailable for comment. His authority’s council tax rate will be set on February 12.