Darlington Council has become the first in the North East to propose a 5 per cent rise in council tax.

Plans set to be discussed by the council’s cabinet this week would see residents’ council tax bills put up by 4.99 per cent as families continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis.

The council becomes the first in the region planning to use new powers given to them by Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s in his Autumn Statement that allow local authorities to increase council tax by up to 5 per cent without having to hold a vote among residents.

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Darlington Council Leader Cllr Jonathan Dulston told The Northern Echo: “We are all experiencing extremely challenging times with inflation continue to rise and the cost of living continue to be a problem for all of us, including council finances which are also being stretched

The Northern Echo: Cllr Jonathan DulstonCllr Jonathan Dulston (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

“I have been very keen to make sure we still deliver on the services that support our most vulnerable but also services that people come to rely on.”

“I understand the issues people are facing and this isn’t an easy decision, but this is the decision to be able to deliver the services we need.

“If we make cuts, it’s the most vulnerable people in our communities who will suffer.

“The Labour Party say the government should step in but that’s still the taxpayer.”

It comes as Redcar and Cleveland Council proposed a 3.99 per cent increase next year with a warning from leader Cllr Mary Lanigan that they had ‘no choice’ over the hike.

However, Darlington Labour leader Cllr Stephen Harker warned that the 5 per cent rise would hit families ‘very hard’ but said it was an 'impossible' situation and called on Government to increase funding for the council.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Stephen HarkerCllr Stephen Harker (Image: SARAH CALDECOTT)

Cllr Harker said: “We’re facing Council tax hikes of 5% for the next 4 years. This year especially, a 5 per cent rise is going to hit families very hard, amidst all other prices increases.

“Darlington’s Conservatives plan to exhaust the Council’s reserves by spending £10 million more than the Council receives every year for the next four years. This is simply unsustainable – Darlington’s reserves will run out after two years.  

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"The Council’s Cabinet has known about the financial black hole, but still carried on funding projects that they thought would win them votes at the Local Elections. The £125,000 firework display and the £500,000 extension of the free car parking offer were just two recent examples of their reckless spending.

"Unless the Tory Government increases funding to Darlington Council, there is a bleak outlook for Council services. Further cuts will reduce our ability to provide social care to our vulnerable adults, and children.

"The Government is forcing Councils to raise Council Tax by an unacceptable amount during a period of exceptional hardship. Conservatives nationally and locally bear responsibility. They have engineered this crisis for Councils and families alike.”

Other council leaders in the region including Durham Council Leader Cllr Amanda Hopgood and Newcastle City Council Leader Cllr Nick Kemp also previously warned the prospect of a 5 per cent was ‘unthinkable’.

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