Civic leaders have spoken out to dispel the myth that Hartlepool has one of the highest council tax levels in the country.
It comes as the council is facing swingeing cuts in Government funding and other major financial pressures.
Figures published in a recent council financial report show that when it comes to the average level of council tax per property, Hartlepool ranks 271 out of 326 local authority areas during 2015/16 – making it the 55th lowest average council tax in the country.
National council tax comparisons are normally made at B and D as it is viewed as the average band, but the large majority of Hartlepool properties (almost 87%) fall into the lowest bands (A, B and C), with just 7% in band D.
Councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, the leader of the council, said: “It is very confusing to people and misleading to make council tax comparisons at band D because the vast majority of Hartlepool residents are in the lower bands.
“It is much fairer and more accurate to compare what people actually pay and when you do this Hartlepool is the 55th lowest out of 326 councils in the country – the highest being Elmbridge, in Surrey, and the lowest the London Borough of Wandsworth.”
The amount of grant which the Government is going to give local councils including Hartlepool for 2016/17 assumes that the councils will increase the level of council tax by 3.9%, 2% of this covers the cost of social care – the responsibility for which the Government has shifted from itself and onto councils.
The authority is still reeling from the announcement just before Christmas that it is to lose a further £2.1m in Government grant for 2016/17 – on top of the £2.8m reduction it was already anticipating.
The authority also has to cope with the loss of £3.8m in Business Rates every year following a recent decision by the Valuation Office Agency to reduce those paid by Hartlepool Power Station.
The council has frozen council tax for the last five years – the only Tees Valley council to do so – but the Government acknowledges that the era of council tax freezes is now over.
A 3.9% increase will result in the large majority of Hartlepool households (87% in bands A, B and C) receiving an increase of 71p, 83p and 95p per week respectively. For the 96% of households receiving Local Council tax support, the increase will be no more than 10p per week.
The council will meet on February 18 to set its budget and council tax for 2016/17.