COUNCIL leaders were taken to task yesterday over proposals to increase council tax by 8.4 per cent in Darlington.

Tory councillors quizzed members of the borough council's cabinet at a resources scrutiny meeting at the town hall.

Councillor Charles Johnson said: "I'd like to understand why in March 2003 we were predicting a council tax rise of 4.5 per cent.

"We have gone from 4.5 per cent to 8.4 in less than a year.

"Either the forecast was wrong initially or we have gone beyond what we expected to do this year."

Paul Wildsmith, Darlington's corporate services director, said the forecast was made before the council had identified what services the public wanted money to be spent on.

Council leader John Williams defended the rise, saying the authority would still have the lowest council tax in the region.

Coun Johnson said that was irrelevant to council tax payers in the town.

"The difference for the people of Darlington is still one year to the next, not what somebody else is charged in the next parish," he said.

A decision on the rise will be taken by the full council on March 10.