Councillor hits out at council tax hike plan

Councillor David Riddle has slammed plans for a council tax rise in Hartlepool.
Councillor David Riddle has slammed plans for a council tax rise in Hartlepool.

A councillor says he will 'fundamentally oppose' any rise in council tax for Hartlepool residents.

David Riddle, of the Putting Hartlepool First group, spoke out against a recommended 3.9% increase from April this year.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s Corporate Management Team led by Chief Executive Gill Alexander is proposing the increase following a £2.1million bigger than expected cut in grant funding from the Government, plus other financial burdens.

But Coun Riddle accuses the council of contributing to the financial problems itself claiming it has “squandered” millions of pounds on various projects.

He said: “To simply blame the Government for Hartlepool Council’s financial problems is misleading. The Conservative government certainly haven’t done our town any favours, but in my opinion, the problem lies much closer to home.

“Our ruling group of councillors have wasted millions of pounds worth of taxpayers’ money over the last few years.

“Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been spent of consultants, community projects, not the mention the money our council leader continues to squander pursuing the so-called Hartlepool Vision.”

Council officers point out that council tax has not increased in Hartlepool for the last five years but say changes in national Government policy shows that era is over.

Responsibility for social care is being also shifted from central government on to local councils.

Of the 3.9% increase proposed for Hartlepool, it would include a 2% Social Care levy which would raise £655,000 a year towards adult social care costs.

But Coun Riddle added: “People in Hartlepool already pay the third highest council tax in the entire country.

“The very idea of putting it up even higher is disgusting and a slap in the face to hard-working people.

“The argument that council tax hasn’t gone up in five years doesn’t stand up, because the vast majority of people’s wages haven’t gone up either.”

Coun Riddle, who represents Hart ward, was speaking ahead of a debate on the proposed council tax rise by the Finance and Policy Committee, which he is a member of and was due to meet this morning.

He was unable to attend due to work commitments and submitted a statement to be read out.