UK & World News
Town Halls 'Dodging' Council Tax Hike Vote
Councils have been labelled "democracy dodgers" over plans to hike council tax by an amount just short of the threshold at which a local referendum is required.
More than 40 town halls are lining up a 1.99% rise, rejecting central government money to help them freeze bills, according to a survey.
A rise of 2% or more must be approved by taxpayers in a vote.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who wants a 1% cap brought in, said council leaders who go for a rise just shy of 2% were "democracy dodgers"
But Sharon Taylor, chair of the Local Government Association finance panel, said: "Local authorities are striving to keep council tax down but at the same time are grappling with the difficult task of protecting vital services like caring for the elderly, fixing the roads and waste collection following a 40% reduction in Government funding over this Parliament.
"The very late announcement added to the uncertainty faced by councils in setting their budgets and continuing to deliver vital services."
The Local Government Chronicle found 31% (82 councils), of 262 which responded to their survey, were planning an increase, 65% anticipating a freeze and 4% a cut.
It also found almost a third of councils are set to turn down central government funding aimed at helping them freeze bills, and equivalent to a 1% rise.
Of those not taking the extra money, 43 are intending a 1.99% rise, and 37 between 1.5% and 1.99%, with two undecided.
Britain's only Green Party-led council, Brighton & Hove City Council, is planning a referendum to see if there is local support to raise council tax by 4.75%.
Confirmation of the figures will not come until after councils sign off spending plans in the coming weeks.
LGC editor Emma Maier said: "Councils want to freeze tax for their residents,but many local authorities are under increasing pressure as a result of cuts to their government grant and rising demand for their services.
"The fact that so many have chosen to increase tax by around 2% rather than accept government funding equivalent to a 1% tax rise is a sign of just how stretched councils are."
Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis said: "We have handed local residents new rights to veto big local tax hikes, so local people have the final say on the amount they pay.
"We would encourage every council to take up this year's freeze offer to help their residents with the cost of living."
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