QUESTIONS have been asked of a Cumbrian council leader over pledges to freeze council tax.

Eden District Council's leader Virginia Taylor has pledged not to raise her authority's portion of council tax in the next budget. She has rejected claims from a member of the Putting Cumbria First political party that her statements on the move have been misleading.

Cllr Taylor revealed this month that the leadership will not raise Council Tax as Eden does not need the additional revenue. She said Eden Council has "healthy" finances, has taken on no new debt under her administration and 2022/23 is the final budget setting year of the authority before it is replaced by Westmorland & Furness Council.

But at a meeting of the Cabinet this week, Penrith Town Council member Jonathan Davies questioned the leader about her pledge not to raise the tax as the budget is yet to be approved.

He said: "Can the leader please explain how as the leader of Eden Council you and Eden Council have issued a statement in the press regarding the council’s budget and council tax saying "no tax increase for residents" and the council's own social media accounts stating 'Council Tax freeze for all residents.'

"These statements all made ahead of this Cabinet and full council approving the budget and setting of the council tax for 2022/23. Does the leader feel these statements may show a level of predetermination yet again by the administration in the setting of the budget and the council tax?"

The draft 2022/23 budget was approved by Cabinet on Tuesday and will go before full council next month.

If councillors approve the budget it will go to consultation, giving the public a say on how their taxes are spent.

In a supplementary question Cllr Davies pointed out that Eden Council only set part of the total Council Tax bill and other authorities have said they will increase their portion.

He said: "So how will the leader and Eden Council deliver no council tax rise for residents? Or does the leader wish to withdraw the public statements made and instead issue a correction?"

The Liberal Democrat leader rejected the claim that she had misled the public in her comments.

In her response, Cllr Taylor said: "The democratic decision making process is being followed absolutely correctly. Every councillor in the administration has been elected by Eden residents and we propose policies and develop actions to benefit them, to the best of our abilities and our consciences.

"Just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer stands on the steps of Number 11 with his or her despatch box, submitting his or her budget to the people to permit discussion, and to Parliament for decision-making, so we have published EDC’s 2022/23 budget.

She said: "Proposals have to be made in order to be discussed and voted on: making them public is a necessary step in that process. The statements and report tonight make it absolutely clear that these are not decisions but draft proposals for consultation and scrutiny. The Budget and Setting of Council Tax are for Full Council to decide on 24th February."