Ryedale District Council leader and deputy quit over council tax rise

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image copyrightRyedale District Council
image captionKeane Duncan, 26, was first elected to the council when he was aged 20

A council leader and his deputy have resigned in protest at a "greedy and unnecessary" proposal to raise local taxes amid the Covid pandemic.

Keane Duncan quit after his proposals for a 2021/22 freeze at Ryedale District Council were overturned.

The Conservative leader said the authority "should help people out where it can" and its financial position enabled it to freeze bills.

Deputy leader Steve Arnold, of Ryedale First Independents, also stood down.

Ryedale receives a 10% share of North Yorkshire County Council bills, which are about £2,000 a year per household.

Of that total, 72% goes to the county council, 14% to North Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and 4% to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

Councillor Duncan's proposal to freeze council tax was overturned last week by a coalition of Liberal, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors, who voted instead to increase it by 2.44% with the annual amount on a Band D property rising from £200.73 in 2020/21 to £205.63 - the maximum allowed - in the forthcoming financial year.

In his resignation speech at the start of council meeting on Thursday, he said: "I cannot in good conscience stand by and watch as they push through this unpopular hike in council tax.

"Therefore I am taking a stand by announcing my immediate resignation as leader in protest at their disgraceful and greedy act."

image copyrightRyedale District Council
image captionCouncillor Duncan and his deputy Steve Arnold resigned at a virtual council meeting on Thursday

The 26-year-old told the BBC he believed freezing the tax was the "right thing to do" and the rise was "not necessary and not needed at such a difficult time with many people struggling" during the pandemic.

He said it would have cost the authority £109,000 to offset the impact of a freeze, which he described as a "fractionary small amount of money from our reserves".

In March last year he said the authority had £16m in the bank, which was equivalent to four years of council tax, adding: "We could have frozen it, we had the ability to do so."

Councillor Duncan said he "was not a quitter" and would continue in his role as leader of the Conservative Group and councillor for Norton.

Ryedale District Council said interim post-holders would not replace the leaders and a decision on both roles would be made at its next annual meeting in May.

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