RESIDENTS in Derwentside face a massive increase in their council tax this spring.

Derwentside District councillors last night agreed a 12.5 per cent increase, taking account of a 14.8 per cent hike in Durham County Council's levy and a 14.2 per cent increase in the share going to Durham Police.

The increases mean most tax payers in the district will face an increase of £100 in their council tax for 2002/3.

Meanwhile, there was slightly better news for Chester-le-Street council tax payers yesterday. Their district authority is expected to approve a 7.5 per cent increase in its council tax.

Speaking at last night's meeting at Consett Civic Centre, Alex Watson, leader of Derwentside District Council, said: "Things have been made much more difficult after only receiving a Government spending allowance of just 2.3 per cent - which was appallingly low.

"We know this is a double figure tax rise and we will get flak for that. But we have to collect for both the county council and the police as well and our share of the tax amounts to just 34p a week for Band A taxpayers."

Opposition independents leader Bill Stockdale was unable to attend the meeting because of ill health, but his deputy, Councillor Tom Charlton, also criticised the Government for not giving the council more money.

In Derwentside three quarters of all houses are in Band A and of those about one third accommodates single people, who get a 25 per cent discount.

About a quarter of residents in the district receive benefits and many do not have to pay any tax at all.

Chester-le-Street District Council has the lowest council tax in the county.

Yesterday, council leader Councillor Malcolm Pratt vowed there would be no cuts.

He said: "While keeping our increase to a minimum we are making more than £80,000 available to provide a better environmental cleaning service. There will not be many councils in the country keeping their council tax increase down to 18p a week for 93 per cent of residents."

Chester-le-Street District Council will meet to ratify the latest tax increase today.

The county council is expected to ratify its increase on Friday.