A DISTRICT council has taken pre-emptive action to help residents and businesses withstand rising fuel prices and expected national tax increases by freezing charges for some key services.

Richmondshire District Council's corporate board rejected its medium-term plan to increase charges for garden waste collections and parking permits from April amid fears of exacerbating economic hardship.

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While residents in Harlow, Essex, must pay £96 a year if they want their garden waste collected, the meeting heard increasing the annual charge by £1 to £26 in Richmondshire could act as a deterrent to the authority's environmental agenda to encourage recycling and discourage fly-tipping.

The authority's leader Councillor Angie Dale told the meeting it was clear residents were struggling to make ends meet and there was a point when green waste collections would become unaffordable for some.

Conservative group leader Yvonne Peacock added: "I know where inflation is running, but I also know there's pensioners whose money does not go very far and the increase they're getting this year might be less than they are expecting."

The meeting heard younger families in the district were also "really struggling".

Cllr Helen Grant said: "I think we are going to see an awful lot of suffering in places you would not normally expect to see it."

An officer's report to the meeting had highlighted how the council was already subsidising the non-statutory service with £123,000 and for the service to cover its full costs, the charge each bin would need to rise by £10.

The report also warned of widening the financial gap between income from fees and charges and the costs of maintaining some services.

It highlighted how last year councillors took the decision not to increase fees and charges due to the pandemic, but this had created a £40,100 hole in its budget to be funded by other means.

The meeting heard while there were no plans to increase charges for those wanting to park in town and village centres, permits for residents to park their cars in the surrounding streets were due for a three per cent rise to £129.

Some councillors described that proposal as "inequitable" and "unfair".

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Richmond member Cllr Stuart Parsons said Richmondshire residents were facing a litany of pressures.

He said: "We are recovering from a pandemic, we are struggling to get all of our businesses back up and running properly, we are struggling to get people back into work with a reasonable salary and people's incomes will be massively reduced with quite a heft tax increase next spring and we're also to face exceedingly high energy bills.

"Even contemplating raising parking charges on one element is absolutely wrong.

"We need to encourage people to come into our towns and use our town centres and to visit and enjoy Richmondshire, and that includes our residents as well."

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