Chester-le-Street District Council has announced the biggest tax increase in the county, as it pours money into its housing services.

Tax payers in the district will pay 9.7 per cent more than last year. The district council's charge for the average Band D property increases from £133.19 to £146.11 a year, which with Durham County Council's levy amounts to £1,129 a year.

Meanwhile council tenants will be paying on average an extra £1.65 a week in rent.

It is the biggest percentage increase in council tax of all seven district councils in County Durham - although at 25p per week for Band D payers, it does not translate as the highest bill. Band D tax payers in Durham City will be paying £1,144 under the city council.

Chester-le-Street District Council said its increases were largely because it plans to increase spending on priority services, to avoid closing facilities or cutting back services. In particular the council will be spending more on housing, injecting an extra £925,205 into the service, which will increase the overall investment in housing to £3,499,000.

The council is currently attempting to turn around its housing department, following its second 'poor' rating in two years by Government inspectors.

As a result of the inspection, the department was the first in the country to be referred to the deputy prime minister for potential intervention.

One of the failings the inspectors found was the way sheltered housing residents and other vulnerable people who used the Careline Service were unwittingly paying for the vast amount of CCTV coverage in the town centre as staff monitoring the Careline alarms were also responsible for monitoring CCTV in the town centre.

Now budgetary arrangements for funding CCTV have been amended freeing up an additional £62,050 for housing. Council tenants who use Careline's services will see a slight increase of 60p per week.

The council will appoint a fuel poverty officer.

Other initiatives earmarked for extra spending include:

* The renewal of play equipment at the Riverside and two other community play areas.

* The re-design and replacement of bus shelters throughout the district.

* Fire safety measures at community centres.

* Lighting schemes on district footpaths and garage areas.

Fees at all the council's leisure facilities are to increase by at least three per cent.