A COUNCIL leader has resigned in protest at an increase in council tax he has called “cruel and unnecessary” amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Councillor Keane Duncan, leader of Ryedale District Council announced his decision to resign at the start of a full council meeting tonight (February 25). Deputy leader Councillor Steve Arnold, who leads the Ryedale First Independent group, also resigned.
The decision comes a week after the Conservative leader’s proposed freeze in the district’s council tax for the next financial year was overturned with fellow councillors arguing that not increasing the tax was a short-term measure and the extra funding should be invested on climate change issues. The average Band D property in the area will now pay £5 more.
Announcing his resignation Cllr Duncan told the council: “The council tax increase approved by Liberal, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors has come as a cruel and unnecessary blow in a year when many families are struggling so much as a result of the pandemic.
“I can not in good conscience stand by and watch as they push through this unpopular hike in council tax. Therefore, I am tonight taking a stand by announcing my immediate resignation as leader of the council in protest at their disgraceful and greedy act.
“I believe the public stand with me. They have rightly reacted with anger and disbelief at news that Liberals, Liberal Democrats and Independents are asking them for more of their cash when there was no need to do so given the millions we have in the bank.
“In this year, of all years, they could have given residents a break, but instead they chose to add to the burden. When Conservatives and Ryedale First Independents stood on the side of residents, they stood and laughed in their faces. Their reckless £2.2 million spending spree only adds insult to injury.”
He added: “Given everything we have been able to achieve in recent months, I am disappointed progress will come to a juddering halt as the coalition opposite takes charge.
“But my decision to go, however tough, is the right one. I can not stay in post while those opposite destroy this council’s finances, denigrate our good staff, and subject struggling families to a cruel and unnecessary hike in council tax.”
Cllr Duncan, now 26, joined the council in 2015, while still at university and in 2019 became Britain’s youngest council leader aged 24 as part of a partnership arrangement with the Ryedale First Independents.
During his time in office, he has been a leading voice in the debate over the future of local government in North Yorkshire, opposing the county council’s bid to create a single unitary authority for the county and proposing the alternative east and west model.
Cllr Duncan remains a councillor and leader of the council’s 10-member Conservative group, while Cllr Arnold continues as leader of the three Ryedale First Independents.