A LOCAL authority has rejected an appeal to help residents whose finances have been hit by the pandemic by postponing an extra £50 social care charge on council tax bills.

Ahead of Darlington Borough councillors voting to levy the maximum council tax increase allowed before it would need to call a referendum, the authority’s Labour group launched a last-minute bid to overturn the Conservative administration’s proposed 4.99 per cent rise.

Some 60 per cent of the increase is specifically to pay for adult social care.

The council’s leader, Councillor Heather Scott told the meeting soaring social care costs were continuing to place a major pressure on the authority.

Mirroring criticism of Westminster politicians from other local authorities in the region, Cllr Scott said successive governments had failed to deal with the funding of services such as care homes.

She said: “This must be addressed nationally and dealt with quickly.

“It’s important coming out of Covid that we have sufficient resources to deal with extra problems that may occur, that’s why we have opted to apply the full three per cent precept this year rather than deferring part to a future budget.”

Cllr Scott said residents who struggle to afford council tax could apply for council tax relief, adding that while the authority had given support to many businesses during the pandemic, “It’s important that we do everything we can to support our residents.”

However, Labour group leader Councillor Stephen Harker said the council could use £1.5m of its reserves to cover the social care charge on the council tax as many residents could not afford to pay it due to the pandemic.

He said it would be “perverse” of the authority to levy the social care charge - of almost £50 for Band D taxpayers - just weeks after calling on the Government to ease the financial hardship faced by Universal Credit claimants.