UK & World News
Council Tax: Town Halls Revolt Over Rises
Around 41% of local authorities in England are shunning the Government's offer of extra money in return for pegging council tax rates.
Last year, around 85% took up the offer but now that number is set to fall dramatically, according to figures compiled by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (Cipfa).
With just over half of billing authorities already confirming their intentions, it found that 41% intended to forego the government money - equivalent to a 1% rise in cash terms - and push up the tax for 2013/14.
The average rise is expected to be 1.1% - an extra £11.74 for a typical Band D property.
There are significant regional variations, with an average 1.2% rise due across Yorkshire and Humber - adding £16.30 to a Band D property bill - while in Greater London it is just 0.1%.
Some town halls fear that unless they impose modest rises this year they will be forced into more dramatic increases in future when there is no Whitehall cash to soften the blow.
Cipfa's Ian Carruthers said: "As the pressures from this period of unprecedented austerity intensify, all councils are having to strike an increasingly difficult balance between protecting hard-pressed taxpayers and maintaining local services."
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said: "Council tax more than doubled under Labour. But this Government has worked to freeze council tax for three years.
"This survey confirms that council tax will effectively be frozen again this year, with an average change across England of just a mere 0.8%. This is a tax cut in real terms."
Mr Pickles has ordered any council which seeks a rise of 2% or more to put it to a local referendum and has told those considering rises just short of that they are "cheating" taxpayers.
A Local Government Association spokesman said: "This has been a tricky decision for councils.
"Collectively local authorities are facing a 33% cut in funding from government at the same time as the cost of providing services like adult social care is climbing through the roof.
"The council tax grant from government is very small when set against those pressures and it lasts just two years with no certainty beyond that.
"Ultimately councils have to take a long-term view. Some have clearly decided that increasing council tax is one way of meeting current costs and alleviating pressure in the longer term.
"Councils are fully accountable to their electorates for these decisions."