COUNCILLORS in a district recently crowned the best place to live in England are being urged to set one of the country’s lowest rises in council tax.

A meeting of Richmondshire District Council’s corporate board heard the authority’s Conservative leadership were aiming to lessen the burden facing residents as other bodies contributing to council tax bills were looking at significant rises in their precepts.

In a surprise move following officers preparing a budget with a 2.99 per cent council tax rise, the council’s corporate board approved recommending a 1.7 per cent increase, which equates to £3.60 extra for Band D properties.

The meeting heard cutting the rise to 1.7 per cent would leave the council facing a deficit of about £54,000.

The authority’s operational services boss Councillor Tony Duff highlighted how the council entered into a business rate pool with North Yorkshire County and Ryedale, Craven, Hambleton and Scarborough councils for the coming year.

He said it looked likely the pilot scheme would generate an additional £500,000 for Richmondshire, making the deficit affordable.

Independent councillor Linda Curran said the budget which had been prepared by officers had seemed “very reasonable”.

 She said: “Everyone will always support having council taxes as low as possible, but over the years that has proved to be a dangerous game. I do see it as a game because it’s an election year and people want to make a statement to show how caring and efficient they are.

“But it can come back to haunt you as it is haunting the county council for trying to keep council tax low. At some point you have got to put it up again.”

The council’s leader, Councillor Yvonne Peacock dismissed the suggestion that the council tax setting was “electioneering”.

She said the four-year administration had started with council tax being frozen “to keep council tax as low as possible for our residents”.

Cllr Peacock said: “We have done a lot of work in the past four years and managed to take a lot of cuts from government, yet we have been efficient and keep all our services running.

“Knowing that other councils and bodies in North Yorkshire are having to put their council tax demands quite high, if we can soften it slightly that’s what we should do.”