A DISTRICT council has defended a plan to increase its annual spending by almost £1m and demand residents pay an above inflation rise in council tax.

Hambleton District Council’s leaders said despite recommending council tax is increased by £5 on a Band D equivalent property in 2019/20 to £109.48, the authority looked on course to set one of the country’s three lowest council tax demands.

Deputy leader Councillor Peter Wilkinson told a meeting of the Tory-dominated authority’s cabinet that it needed £989,700 more mainly due to an increase in staff salaries and members’ allowances across the organisation.

He said the ‘national employer’ offer across all local authorities had suggested increasing salaries by two per cent and ensured those on lower wages receive the national Living Wage. He added more employees had been appointed to support the delivery of services across the district.

Following a lengthy debate over councillors’ allowances at a full meeting of the council in December, members voted to raise pay for the council’s leader and deputy leader to £30,000 and £15,000, respectively as well as awarding allowances to members of the planning committee.

An Independent Remuneration Panel had proposed recognising the councillors for their “achievement and effort”.

Cllr Wilkinson said: “The increase in budget that has been made is necessary for the council to continue to provide efficient and effective services for the community.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Mark Robson, added it was a testament to the council’s financial acumen that Band D council taxpayers would only be levied with 50p per month extra for an increasing range of services. He said: “This is a good news story that shows the amount of good work that this authority is doing out there for our residents, and it doesn’t come without the staff to cover these areas. We are delivering more and more as a district council. We need to recognise staff on lower wages and to conform with the national Living Wage.”

The meeting heard no debate over the proposed increase before members approved recommending it to the next full council meeting.