RYEDALE council tax is to be frozen for a third successive year after councillors set a budget which sees funding for play schemes, sport development and a skate park slashed.

The moves were agreed on Monday night by district councillors but only after Liberal group leader Coun John Clark argued that instead of accepting a one-off Government grant of £94,000 to fund the tax freeze, the authority should increase the council tax by 2.5 per cent. His motion was defeated.

After a lengthy debate, the council also rejected proposals by Coun Clark that £30,000 should not be taken from the sports development scheme. In addition, he failed to save £10,000 for the Kirkbymoorside area office, £12,000 for the council's play rangers scheme, £7,000 for Ryedale Voluntary Action, £4,000 for catching rats in the pest control service, and £3,000 towards the running of the Norton skateboard park.

Coun Clark told councillors the money – £66,000 – could be found from £50,000 which had been earmarked as unallocated in the new budget, and £16,000 from the Government's new homes bonus. He said the Government one-off grant was "a bribe".

Earlier, strategy director Paul Cresswell had said that by accepting the Government's 2.5 per cent grant, there would be no increase in tax by Ryedale House. Some £1m had been saved in the past year through efficiencies, with £600,000 saved this year. But he said on top of those savings, there was a need to cut services to balance the new budget.

Council leader Coun Keith Knaggs said: "Cuts should be seen as an opportunity to re-balance spending.

We are one of more than 200 councils accepting the Government's freeze."

Coun Elizabeth Shields said it was "disgraceful" that £30,000 was taken from sports development to help young people, in a year when Britain was hosting the Olympics.

Coun Vivienne Knaggs believed the £50,000 unallocated in the budget would be needed for "unforeseen circumstances" in the future.

The 80 per cent cut in funding for Ryedale Festival was agreed, reducing the grant to the prestigious arts programme from £25,000 to £5,000.

The total tax bill for Ryedale residents, including North Yorkshire County Council, the police authority, fire and rescue service and parish and town council precepts, will be just over £1,500 for the average Band D property.