THE leader of Ryedale District Council (RDC) has said the authority’s decision to increase council tax is “bonkers” and “morally wrong”.

Cllr Keane Duncan had urged members to back a freeze for the next financial year at a meeting of the full council last Thursday.

However, fellow councillors argued not increasing the tax was a short-term measure and the extra funding should be invested on climate change issues. The average Band D property in the area will now pay £5 more.

Cllr Duncan said: “Ryedale is sitting on a £15 million fortune. We are a small council and this amount equates to almost twice our annual revenue budget.

“With such a large amount of money in the bank, it is morally wrong to subject households to yet another tax increase. It’s a bonkers course of action that will likely rancour with Ryedale taxpayers. Our proposal to freeze bills equated to a cut in real terms for all households, and it is shame it wasn’t supported.”

Liberal Cllr Joy Andrews had questioned at the meeting what would happen if further cuts in funding where made.

“The New Homes Bonus may cease to exist and Government grants may not happen - there are so many uncertainties,” she said.

Fellow Liberal Cllr John Clark put forward an amendment, that was later defeated, that the extra funding of £110,000 could be spent on fighting climate change with the appointment of a dedicated officer.

Independent Cllr Lindsay Burr said that although she welcomed the possibility of extra spending on the environmental issues she was opposed to an increase in council tax.

Cllr Burr said: “Of course I want the council to deliver on big projects, but I really feel there is no need to increase council tax this year and we should give residents a break.”

Liberal Democrat Cllr Di Keal said it was very sad that, after the council voted to increase council tax, the Conservatives then voted down a proposal to spend the money raised to take forward our work on tackling climate change.

She said: “Climate change is the biggest issue facing society today and everyone, including RDC needs to do their bit to tackle it.

“We have a Climate Change Plan and have declared a Climate Emergency - we now need to take urgent action and the £110,000 that will be raised from the council tax would have gone some way to kick-start this work.

“Instead the money will just go into the council’s coffers until such time as it’s decided what to spend it on.

“Ryedale has a number of priorities that it wants to deliver on housing, economic development and infrastructure - but fighting climate change has to be at the top of the list.”

RDC approved a budget of £7.9m, including more than £600,000 extra investment in services and a staff pay rise.

Last week North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) agreed a council tax rise of 3.99 per cent – including a two per cent social care precept.

County Cllr Gareth Dadd, NYCC’s deputy leader and executive member for finance, said: “The reality is that two of our biggest areas of spend are now significantly underfunded.

“Adults who need social care and children with special educational needs are some for the most vulnerable people we look after and the services we offer can be life-saving and life-changing. We want the best for our residents.

“Alongside those challenges we have to identify a further £40 million in savings over the next four years.

“The budget report sets out plans for £21m of that but we still have £19m to find.

“We need financial clarity so we are not planning in the dark.”

There will also be increases to the amount residents pay for police and fire services. North Yorkshire’s Police Fire and Crime Commissioner confirmed the precept for police will rise by 3.9 per cent and the fire service will rise by two per cent.