THE North-East’s biggest local authority has agreed its lowest council tax rise in more than a decade.

Labour-run Durham County Council yesterday agreed to increase its council tax levy by 1.9 per cent.

It means the council’s demand on band D homes will rise from £1,258.92 to £1,282.86 – an increase of £23.94, or 46p a week.

For properties in band A, which includes 61 per cent of County Durham homes, the charge will rise from £839.28 to £855.24 – an increase of £15.96, or 31p a week.

Council leader Simon Henig said: “Our priority for the coming financial year is investing in the economic regeneration of County Durham.

“The council tax increase, which we have managed to keep to a level well below that of the rate of inflation, will contribute to investment in our capital programme.”

The council’s budget for 2010-11 includes £3.8m for revamping town centres, £3.8m for improving industrial estates and £2m for expanding broadband internet services.

More than £34m will be spent on improving council houses in Durham City, Easington and Wear Valley.

Council tenants will see an average rent rise of 2.1 per cent, with garage rents increasing by three per cent.

The council hopes to save £8.5m through efficiencies and £6.7m as a result of last year’s reorganisation, which saw the unitary authority replace the previous two-tier set-up.

Opposition Liberal Democrat and Conservative groups called for a zero per cent rise.

Lib Dem leader Nigel Martin said the council could continue to deliver core services and support the recommended capital programme without any rise in council tax.

Tory councillor Barbara Harrison said the council had not looked hard enough at how it could save money and her group had already identified nearly £1m of savings.

Last year, the council agreed an average 2.94 per cent increase.

Council tax bills also include charges for the police, fire service and parish or town councils.

Durham Police Authority has agreed a four per cent rise on its levy, while County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Authority agreed a 2.85 per cent increase.