THE proposed six per cent rises in council tax for Darlington have been criticised by opposition politicians.

The increase will mean the majority of people in the borough, who live in Band A properties, will be paying an extra £34 a year.

Leader of the Conservatives Tony Richmond said: "Every one of the four increases since the last election has seen the council increase tax levels in excess of inflation.

"Every individual will be hit hard, in particularly those people on low incomes and pensioners whose state pension has not changed sufficiently to compensate for large council tax increases.

"A large part of the so-called increases will be spent in just standing still and social services will still be greatly underfunded, as is the case in most councils across the North-East."

But leader of the council, John Williams, defended the rise.

He said: "The extra £5.7m investment for education, social services and a range of other services is over and above inflation.

"It is money that will bring significant improvements to services for Darlington people who are still likely to benefit from paying the lowest council tax in the North-East region and one of the lowest in the country.

"The proposed rise in council tax is a full three per cent less than the Government's recommendation of a nine per cent rise."

The council's budget is made up of 80 per cent funding from the Government, a figure which has increased by eight per cent this year in Darlington.

The council claims that the rise from the Government means there can be an increased investment without cutting services.

Barry Keal, council chief executive, said: "We have to get the balance between providing good services, having a low council tax and keeping the community satisfied with the services we are providing."