Taxing decisions show authorities' differences
THE invisible border between them famously splits some similar-looking streets in half.
But the difference between Hull City Council and East Riding Council is back in the public spotlight this week, thanks to their respective council tax proposals.
Tomorrow, a full meeting of East Riding Council is expected to support a continuing freeze in household council tax bills.
The move is being made possible by a decision by the authority's Conservative-led administration to accept one-off funding from the Government, worth £1.4m.
In contrast, Hull City Council's ruling Labour group has unveiled a proposed 1.9 per cent council tax increase.
Unlike their East Riding counterparts, Labour leaders in Hull say opting to end a three-year freeze in charges is necessary.
Instead of signing up for the same one-off Whitehall grant, they say restoring annual tax increases will not only generate £1.1m of new income but also provide better long-term financial certainty.
Deputy council leader Councillor Daren Hale said: "Taking the Government's one-off money would mean further council cuts of £5m in five years, as it would not become part of our ongoing base funding."
So why the different policy move up the road at County Hall?
Firstly, the East Riding's finances are in a far healthier state than Hull's, with a better recent record in achieving savings which, in turn, provide a cushion against funding reductions from Whitehall.
Secondly, Tory ministers and local MPs like nothing more than a Tory-led council freezing council tax.
Back in Hull, however, the impact of deep funding cuts without the comfort of those East Riding-style cushions is starting to bite.
As well as a council tax hike, the Labour group's budget proposals include previously unpalatable plans to close customer service centres and reduce opening hours at many libraries.
With the council-run library in the KC Stadium already shut to save money, the long-established library in Anlaby Park is also set to close permanently.
Elsewhere, meals on wheels charges are going up, bin collections are being switched to every fortnight and Labour councillors remain committed to saving £7m by changing long-standing staff terms and conditions.
Overall, up to 500 jobs could eventually be axed.
None of the measures are vote-winners.
Cllr Hale said: "The financial settlement provided by the coalition Government to Hull for the coming year represents a reduction in 8p in every pound in core funding, compared with this year.
"These are eye-watering sums to take out of public spending in Hull and means the council has had to make genuinely tough decisions, which will change the way it operates."