Council tax to increase

Stuart Drummond

Stuart Drummond

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HARTLEPOOL residents will see an increase in their council tax after the final bills were rubber-stamped last night.

The final 2012-13 council tax bills, which include the Cleveland Police and Fire Authority precepts, were agreed at a meeting of the full council.

At last week’s meeting Hartlepool Borough Council agreed to freeze its element to qualify for a government grant of about £1m.

But the Cleveland Fire Authority has agreed a 3.95 per cent rise rise. From April, anyone living in a Band A property in areas without a parish council will pay £1,119.74, a rise of £6.06 from last year.

Meanwhile, residents in a house in Band D will pay £1,679.61, a rise of £9.10 compared to last year.

Residents in the most expensive Band H properties will see their bills rise from £3,341.02 to £3,359.22, a rise of £18.20.

People living in the parishes of Dalton Piercy, Elwick, Greatham, Hart, Headland and Newton Bewley will also see increases in their bills.

Mayor Stuart Drummond, who also chairs the police authority, said it had debated the pros and cons of also accepting a government grant.

But he said agreeing the 3.5 per cent rise, which is equivalent to 8p a week for a Band A property, was the “lesser of two evils” to protect neighbourhood policing in Hartlepool.

Mayor Drummond said: “It was felt by the majority that it was necessary given the chief constable’s view that she could not guarantee front-line police services with a precept of anything less than 3.5 per cent.”

He spoke after a question from independent councillor Geoff Lilley, who said members had the right to know the reasons behind the rise.

Labour Group leader Ged Hall said: “If there needs to be a 3.5 per cent rise to maintain neighbourhood policing then it is a small price worth paying.”

Independent councillors Steve Gibbon and Cath Hill both echoed Coun Hall’s comments.

Meanwhile, Labour councillor Robbie Payne said the fire authority increase was equivalent to a 3p a week rise for a Band A property and 5p for a Band D.

The final council tax bills were then agreed by full council.

Only independent councillors Paul Thompson and Mike Turner voted against.

The £1m government grant to the council is equivalent to raising the 2011-12 level by 2.5 per cent.

It was agreed to do it this year to give residents some much-needed respite.

It is the second year the council has taken advantage of the grant after members agreed to freeze the 2011-12 council tax bills.

Bills will clearly show that Hartlepool Council froze its own tax and the relevant percentage increases for the police and fire authorities.

The council is the collecting agency for both authorities.

Stockton Borough Council, which provides services for Billingham, Wolviston and parts of Wynyard has increased council tax by 3.49 per cent.

l Councillors held a minute’s silence at the start of the meeting in memory of Peter Spires, Hartlepool Borough Council’s registration and nationality services manager who passed away at the weekend.

Mr Spires died aged 64 on Sunday at Hartlepool & District Hospice after a battle with illness.