Hartlepool council tax freeze

Hartlepool Civic Centre.
Hartlepool Civic Centre.

CASH-STRAPPED residents look to be given some respite after councillors voted unanimously to freeze council tax for the next two years.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s finance and policy committee voted in favour of the plans, which are still subject to full council approval, at a recent meeting.

It comes at a time when the local authority continues to face unprecedented cuts in Government funding.

Over the next three financial years officers estimate the council will have to find savings of £16.2m, on top of the £19.5m which the council has had to save over the last three years.

Despite the bleak financial picture facing the local authority, councillors said they felt that a freeze in council tax was the appropriate way forward in the light of the financial difficulties being faced by households across Hartlepool.

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, leader of the council and chairman of the finance and policy committee, said: “We recognise that many families across Hartlepool are facing severe financial hardship in the current economic climate and to help them, we feel that council tax should be frozen for the next two years.

“We appreciate that this decision will put further pressure on the council’s finances but we feel that this is the right and proper approach given the hard times which many families are facing.”

The committee’s decision comes as senior councillors and officers continue to identify and work through savings options within the individual council departments for future years.

A final decision on the level of council tax for 2014-15 and 2015-16 will be made by a meeting of the full council in February next year.

Hartlepool Borough Council had also frozen its element of the bill, which makes up the vast majority of the payment, this financial year as well.

The freeze meant the council was eligible for a one per cent Government grant worth £400,000 for 2013-14 and 2014-15.